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DID YOU READ

Insert Credit: “Shadows of the Damned”

Insert Credit: “Shadows of the Damned”  (photo)

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Insert Credit endeavors to suss out where you should be allotting your video game allowance, sifting out a single title from many and crowning it as The One Game You Need to Get This Week. Don’t consider these reviews, gentle reader. Rather, think of Insert Credit as a mix of hands-on time, informed opinion and intuition.

For the week of June 24, 2011, you should insert credit into: ” Shadows of the Damned.”

No game designer working today channels the inner landscape of a 12-year-old better than Goichi Suda, better known as Suda51. The Japanese creator first came to Westerners attention with “Killer 7,” a Capcom game initially made for the Nintendo GameCube. All of the playable characters in the cartoony, gore-soaked action thriller could’ve sprung from a sixth-grader’s subconscious — a black guy with a Mohawk, a caped luchadore and a comely young girl who reveals secrets with blood that showers from cutting her own wrists. There was also a mechanic where blood was the economy of the game with thin blood restoring health and thick blood used for upgrades. While some of it sounds like it could’ve been cooked up in after-school detention, “Killer 7” bore a psychological twist that showed a deeper understanding of narrative expectations than the rest of the game would have you believe.

Then came “No More Heroes,” whose central character Travis Touchdown embodies the slacker-geek lifestyle probably shared by those the game was aimed at. He buys a bootleg lightsaber called a beam katana off the internet and proceeds to make a run at becoming the number one assassin in the world. But, he’s living in a motel room filled with action figures and other nerd tchotckes and must take on odd jobs like mowing the lawn to keep cash in his pocket. You saved games in “NMH” by sitting on the toilet. And, oh yeah, his big super moves in the game are pro wrestling power slams.

For his newest game, Suda’s inner prepubescent boy fixates on recreating a grindhouse cinema feel inside a video game. “Shadows of the Damned” brings unto us Garcia Hotspur, a trash-talking demon hunter who ventures into hell to get his kidnapped girlfriend back. “Shadows” blasts a guitar-heavy punk/metal soundtrack out of the game and Garcia himself gets covered in copious tattoos in the manner of a Lil Wayne or Wiz Khalifa. Garcia’s aided by a hellborn sidekick names Johnson, who also shapeshifts into his main weapon. Johnson also changes into a torch, a motorcycle and other implements that you need. Early on, Garcia comments that Johnson is always the right tool for the job. The dick jokes keep coming (er, sorry) and it feels like Suda may have a penis-obsessed compulsion like Jonah Hill’s character in “Superbad.” Yes, the one who kept on drawing phalluses everywhere. Even the big bad, a Lord of Hell named
Fleming, make a tiny penis joke as he’s spiriting away girlfriend Paula. And, yes, Fleming also looks like something drawn in the margins of a math notebook, with a long, sleeveless trenchcoat festooned with bones of various sizes.

The game’s primarily an action shooter This is the first game that Suda’s made with a significant partner, that being Shinji Mikami, the creator of the “Resident Evil” series. It’s a testament to Suda’s process that “”SotD” bears much of each man’s sensibilities. The camera angle, resource management, enemies and level design all come from Mikami, while the snot-nosed punk ethos of the characters scream Suda. The frothy fusion results in a bizarre logic that’s oddly Even when the game over-indulges in well-worn game mechanics it does so with gusto. So, even though there’s tons of key pzzles where you need to figure out time and again how to open a door, the bizarre logic of it keeps you engaged. At one point, you need to feed a strawberry to a scowling baby’s head that keeps an entrance locked. You get health back by drinking booze. You need to shoot goat heads to light your way.

Yet, for all the over-the-top humor and its juvenile sense of what’s cool, “Shadows” isn’t shallow. None of Suda’s games are. The insistent childishness in Suda’s games seems to come from a repurposed nostalgia, where he’s trying to recreate the feelings games gave his younger self. Film and pop culture both bear a strong influence on his work, too. Travis Touchdown–the lead in “No More Heroes”–served as a callout to the “Jackass” guys. Similarly in “Shadows,” the inspirations of Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino mix with a heap of “Evil Dead”-era Sam Raimi, too. It’s a road movie set in hell. That nostalgia for the games of old gets nakedly wound around his other obsessions with pro wrestling braggadocio, the recursiveness of nerd minutiae and gothic imagery. (He claims to have been an undertaker before entering game design.) What gamers wind up with is a litany of dick jokes with a heart beating beneath it. A paradox, maybe, but also one that’s decidedly Suda.

Early in his career, Suda would only allow himself to be photographed with a lucha libre wrestling mask on. I remember hearing that he’d also do interviews with it on, too. Looking back on it, I think the mask wasn’t to hide anything but to reveal his inner self. His games do that, as well. What seems like sinking to an elementary school level actually serves to elevate the otaku meme to become its own subject matter. His oeuvre says, “Hey, you know that weird stuff we all like? The wrestling trash-talk, skull rings, cheesy b-movies? Not only can we make games about that stuff, we can make games about liking that stuff.” So, in that way, “Shadows of the Damned” continues the skein of gleefully adolescent yet intriguingly faceted video game experiences coming from Goichi Suda. I, for one, hope he never grows up.

Are you enjoying “Shadow of the Damned”? Let us know in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

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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.

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Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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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:

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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SO EXCITED!!!

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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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.”

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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. 

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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.