Well, it took me a whole two posts before I figured out a way to finagle in some talk about video games. Specifically, we’re going to talk about video game movies! This is a topic that tends to raise the ire of gamers and moviegoers alike, because well, they pretty much always suck. Super Mario Brothers was so bad that Nintendo swore off making their properties in to movies forever, and John Leguizamo and Bob Hoskins had to be completely plastered just to get through filming it. Street Fighter was hampered by Raul Julia’s battle with cancer ruining the shooting schedule (most scenes were shot without him even in the room) and Van Damme coping with his recent divorce by doing just, all of the cocaine. There’s just something about movies based on video games that makes Hollywood think to themselves, “Quality? Fuck that.” But it’s not just the blasé attitude towards the films. Some games simply don’t make good movies because part of what makes them great is the interactive experience (I mean, did anyone play Street Fighter for the plot?). So let’s delve in to some horror games that made it to the silver screen, and we’ll see what worked, what didn’t, and possibly why!
Oh man, this one is kind of tough for me, because I completely, unironically love these movies. I mean, objectively, they are garbage, but the series is so over-the-top ridiculous that you can’t watch it and not have a blast unless you are some kind of film-school snob who drops the phrase mise en scene into every conversation you have like some kind of asshole, but I digress. The Resident Evil games were arguably the first survival horror titles to garner mainstream appeal. The games had painful tank-controls, esoteric puzzles, and way more zombies than you had bullets. Also, there were limited save resources, so not only were you panicking about whether it was worth it to try to kill that zombie down the hall or try to bulldoze through it, you were also panicking about whether you might run out of opportunities to save your progress, or if you would save yourself into a corner with your last ink ribbon. As the series progressed, there were other elements, most notably in Resident Evil 3, where the hulking, near unkillable Nemesis might pop up at any time and fuck you bloody. You would hear that menacing “STARS”, and just run and run and never stop running until you had backtracked through easily 20 minutes of progress. They were tense, claustrophobic experiences where you always felt like a rat in a maze too big to comprehend.
So how did the movies fuck it up? Well, a central tenet of a lot of early survival horror was that you never had enough bullets to shoot through every situation. So sending in a team of disposable humans and disposable Michelle Rodriguez-es with enough ammunition to start a small scale insurgency immediately removed a lot of the tension. The first 20 minutes of the film are all tension and tight spaces and barely any zombies, but after that, it’s like Paul W.S. Anderson yelled “BORED NOW” and had everyone open fire at once, for the rest of the movie. And as a zombie action flick goes, Resident Evil (and it’s cavalcade of increasingly ludicrous sequels) is just the bee’s knees. But for better or for worse, it took nothing from the video games other than zombies and The Umbrella Corporation and plowed ahead. I’m certainly not saying that it would have been fun to watch the cast try to figure out if the rooster key and hex wrench that they found would help them open the door to a police station conference room, but a few thousand less bullets and any recognizable character from the games probably wouldn’t have hurt the tension factor. By the time they started acknowledging the games, Anderson had decided that he was just going to make stylish action madness featuring his wife’s legs, and apparently never looked back.
I’m going to have the opposite problem with this entry. I’m a big “games are art” guy, and I can think of no better example than Silent Hill 2. The first four installments of this series still scare the actual shit out of me, and I love it like I love food that doesn’t typically contain cheese being stuffed with cheese. To steal a line from my favorite video game critic, it gives you a pair of jumper cables and sits back and watches as you clip them to your balls. The fear is entirely in your head as the player. Every time you open a door to a new area, all you can think is that “oh shit there is probably a monster here ok maybe not I’ll just poke around and see if there’s anything around what was that oh shit is there something behind me RUN!” You often don’t even encounter a monster, but the game knows that all it has to do is threaten you with the possibility of one and you will run screaming from the room as soon as things are too quiet for more than 15 seconds. It is an exercise in tension, restraint, and atmosphere that is simply unparalleled. The fact that the Guillermo Del Torro/Hideo Kojima project for the series got scrapped is a tragedy on par with the Armenian plight in 1915, as just the demo for that had me whimpering like a kicked puppy after 30 seconds. Combine that with the scarce ammo and dodgy control situation that Resident Evil had, and it is a recipe for a pantload of excrement.
But unfortunately, the movies could never possibly live up to this, because the viewer was not the one making the choices. When you are playing a video game, you know that, as the one in the protagonist’s shoes, you can’t simply turn tail and run, so ever deeper you must go. In a movie, all you can think is “BITCH GET OUT THE TOWN! IT GON KILL YA ASS!” Instead of forcing you into the head of the hero (heroine in the case of the Silent Hill movies), you are watching from the outside as they make dumb decision after dumb decision. Combine this with the fact that the movies eschewed all sense of subtlety in favor of a mountain of barbed wire and oblique rape metaphor, and this franchise was doomed on the big screen from the start. Like Kurt Cobain, Silent Hill was simply too pure for this world.
House of the Dead
I genuinely hope I don’t have to explain what House of the Dead is. They still have at least two cabinets in any arcade worth a damn and those games hit their 20 year mark next year. You get a light gun, there are dead things to kill, survivors to save, and quarters to spend dammit! Later installments would up the ante with different light gun peripherals that reinvigorated the act of pulling the trigger til it goes click like nobody’s business. The second game gave you the shotgun that you had to cock to reload, the third game gave you uzis so that you could spray n’ pray, the fourth gave you multiple screens to monitor and christ I want to drive over to Dave and Buster’s and spend all of my money just typing this. There is not a simpler thing that someone could make into an easy zombie movie.
What happened to this film? Uwe fucking Boll happened to this film. If you aren’t aware who he is, I’ll elaborate: Uwe Boll is to filmmaking as Isis is to the middle east peace process. He is a cinematic war criminal who seems to take perverse, semen spurting joy out of taking any property you even mildly tolerated and breaking all of its limbs and sewing strings through the stumps so that he can make it dance for his own amusement. If I had Uwe Boll and Hitler in the same room with a gun and two bullets, I would unload both of them into Uwe Boll. If I had every drug known to man ad-infinitum, it would not make one of his movies bearable. I would not even piss on Uwe Boll to put out a fire. I would gladly let a full orphanage burn to the ground if Uwe Boll was inside and guaranteed no escape. German parents tell their children cautionary tales of Uwe Boll coming to make films of their lives. Uwe Boll would never be invited to my birthday party.
The guy’s movies are unequivocal garbage, is what I’m driving at here. The movie (made in 2003) opens with a rave happening at what appears to be 3PM, attended by 20 people, sponsored by Sega. Do I really need to say any more on that subject?
So what have we learned from this? Fuck if I know. Movies are hard, you guys. Catch you at a time that will be later!