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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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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…

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IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.

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IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).

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IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.

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IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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