Review: Outlast 2 (Video Game)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on October 13, 2018 by Lilliandra Winters

Developer: Red Barrel Studios
Platforms: PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4
Release Date: April 25th, 2017

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Lets take a minute to appreciate how truly fucked up Outlast is. It’s full of some twisted shit and when I thought it couldn’t get worse, they gave us some messed up DLC. Thank fuck that’s over! Outlast 2 was like, hold my beer.

The problem with sequels is that you have an expectation. It isn’t the new, never-seen-before experience of the first one. So keeping this in mind, Outlast 2 seems to have upped the ante. Also giving it an American Horror Story feel the second game, with only subtle nods to the first game, gives it a completely different concept. You are a different character in a different part of the world.

outlast_2_launch_screen_7Blake and Lynn are flying in a helicopter, making their way to investigate a woman that was found wondering down a stretch of highway, barefoot and pregnant. She is later murdered under suspicious circumstances. Your helicopter crashes and bursts into flames. Lynn is missing, but your camera is intact, so you pick it up and start to make your way in the darkness looking for her. You see a man tied to a tree and gutted, you see a town in the distance and make your way towards it.

Outlast 2 jumps into pushing limits. It was really interesting to see what they did to the game after the the demo. They incorporated a lot, but not everything, and there were some distinct differences between the two. The ‘flashbacks’ unlock a story from Black’s past about his friend, Jessica, and what happened to her. It has some correlation to what is currently happening, but why it’s happening is pretty fucked up.

I will warn you, there is a LOT to follow in this game: cults, zealots, STDs, a prophet, murder and your past. That’s just the tip of this disturbing iceberg. It’s a lot of information to keep straight, but completely worth it when you do. Outlast 2 is a wonderful reminder of the depravity that lurks in the dark.

I don’t know why you are still reading this. If you haven’t played Outlast Outlast: Whistle Blower go play then and jump straight into Outlast 2. Here’s hoping you have a strong stomach.

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Review: Malevolent (2018)

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , on October 6, 2018 by Xander Woolf

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Starring: Florence Pugh, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Scott Chambers, Georgina Bevan & Celia Imrie
Directed by: Olaf de Fleur Johannesson

Netflix is killing it with their original content. Shows, mini-series and movies alike, Netflix knows content and has the budget to do these projects justice. Not the least of which is Malevolent, a horror movie about a young woman that inherited the medium gifts that eventually took her mother’s life.

What’s it about?
Brother and sister duo, Jackson (Lloyd-Hughes) and Angela (Pugh), decide to use their mother’s name to create a side gig for some extra cash. The children of a famous Scottish medium, they set Angela up to be the face who speaks with ghosts, while Jackson gets the gigs and their friends, Elliot (Chambers) and Beth (Bevan), help with the tech. They put on a show for their clients, then make off with the cash before it’s discovered that they didn’t actually do anything.

This all changes when they take on a job a little too big for their britches. Mrs. Green (Imrie) supposedly lives alone on a large estate. She used to run a girls’ school, but tragedy struck and all of the girls ended up dead, their mouths sewn shut. Now, she hears laughter and screaming and she just wants a quiet house. Jackson accepts the job, against Angela’s wishes, and the team heads to this remote estate in the Scottish countryside.

What awaits them, however, are mutilated ghost children and a revelation about what actually happened all those years ago.

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What did I think?
Like with most movies, there are pros and cons to Malevolent. The ambiance is fantastic. The setting is perfect. It’s a very well-made film in general. It actually scared me. Give me Scottish ghosts and I’m putty in your hand.

It’s a fairly typical haunted house movie. The protagonists arrive, thinking none of the stories are real. We start with glimpses of ghosts and mini-jumpscares. Then, all of a sudden, the unknown becomes known and our protags are in very real danger.

While the acting was great, the characters themselves were a little off for me. Angela is quiet and angsty — straight out of a YA novel. Jackson is unfeeling and overconfident, despite his life being in danger after borrowing money from the wrong people. Elliot is the puppy dog that follows Angela around and Beth doesn’t really seem to add much value to the plot. They’re all a little two-dimensional.

Mrs. Green, on the other hand, was phenomenal. With a base need for quiet as her driving force, Mrs. Green is multi-faceted. Celia Imrie really brings her character to life, which is to be expected of such a celebrated and talented British actress.

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Despite all this though, the relationships between the characters felt real. There were times when tears came to my eyes because the raw emotion that Florence Pugh put forth caught me off guard.

Story-wise, I’m left with more questions than answers, which I’m not a particular fan of. If it was a series and this was the first part, I’d be okay with this, but it’s a standalone movie, with no plans that I can find for a sequel. The haunted house plot wrapped up nicely, but there are questions about Angela that I’d like answered.

Do I recommend it?
Yes. While it has its flaws, this movie pulls from classic horror archetypes and introduces some twists that I didn’t expect. It’s worth a watch, especially since you won’t spend any extra money on it. You can find Malevolent on Netflix.

Review: The Ritual (2017)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 14, 2018 by Xander Woolf

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Starring: Rafe Spall, Arsher Ali, Robert James-Collier, Sam Troughton
Directed By: David Bruckner

What’s it about?

Five friends get together to plan a lad’s getaway. Lots of ideas are thrown around, including hiking in Sweden. Lots of ideas are also turned down. They leave the pub without having set on a plan. As they’re walking along, Luke (Spall) decides to go into the liquor store to get some more alcohol. Rob (Paul Reid) goes in with him, still talking about the hiking trip to Sweden. Two “junkies” were in the midst of robbing the store. Rob ends up dead while Luke hides in the back.

Fast forward to four friends hiking in Sweden. They pour one out for Rob at their destination, then start to head back. Dom (Troughton) falls and tears his meniscus. After looking at the map, the friends decide to cut through the forest and make a bee-line to the lodge to cut a day off their hike.

Once in the forest, they notice runes carved into the trees. They come across several other horrific scenes before it becomes obvious that there’s something living in that forest that doesn’t like them one bit.

What did I think?

This movie was… interesting. In a good way, I promise!

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I pressed play. It’s a UK movie, so I had high expectations. I tend to like foreign horror a bit more than US horror. It’s less predictable to me since different cultures tend to have different ways of telling a story.

I loved the setting. The forest is always a great choice for horror movies. The ambiance was perfect: dark, uneven and oppressive. Director David Bruckner did an amazing job capturing this story.

The characters were relatable. You had the loser (Luke), the complainer (Dom), the leader (Hutch (James-Collier)), and the nobody (Phil (Ali)). Each actor did a great job portraying their archetype, especially Rafe Spall as Luke.

The story itself did happen to be a bit predictable, but it was done in such a way that I don’t find fault in it. I was somewhat disappointed by the ending. I expected there to be a little bit more to it. It felt unfinished.

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Do I recommend it?

Yeah, it’s a great B-horror movie to watch when you want something to keep you on edge, but not scare you. You can find it on Netflix, so go see for yourself and let me know if you agree or not in the comments below!

The Power of Silence: A Quiet Place Review

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , on September 7, 2018 by Xander Woolf

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I know, I know, I’m late to the party!

Sometimes it’s difficult or impossible to see a movie when it just comes out. Believe you me, I’ve been trying to see Slenderman for weeks and it’s just not happening yet. But Winters and I finally got to sit down and watch A Quiet Place, thanks to Amazon and their 40% rental discount.

We went into the movie not really knowing what to expect. I know it’s been out awhile, but we were good about staying away from spoilers. We knew that they couldn’t make noise, or else something bad would happen. We knew the oldest daughter was deaf, and so was the actress who played her. We knew that John Krasinski had written it for his lovely wife, Emily Blunt. We knew all that, but we had no idea what the movie was actually about.

Turns out, there are monsters that somehow showed up (per Wikipedia, they’re aliens). They’re blind and they’re covered in a naturally thick hide that serves as armor. They attack noise and wiped out most of humanity in a matter of months.

The Abbott family survived by staying silent and vigilant. They can communicate because they already knew sign language – having a deaf daughter, Regan – and they formulated countless in-case-of-emergency plans.

The movie begins on one of the family’s outings to gather supplies from the abandoned supermarket in town. Their four year old son grabbed a toy rocket from the shelf. As they were headed back, the boy turned on the toy, which became very, very loud. Before Lee (Krasinski) could get to him, one of the creatures grabbed the boy and killed him.

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A year later, the Abbott family is expecting another little one. Evelyn (Blunt) and the two remaining children – Regan (Simmonds) and Marcus (Jupe) – take to soundproofing the basement of their old barn so that mom and baby can recover without attracting the beings. Meanwhile, we are shown exposition as Lee works in the basement of the house on a new hearing aid for Regan.

The plot follows this family’s plight for survival as multiple unexpected things start to happen – as they do when you have a wife about to go into labor and two children who are incapable of seeing the big picture. Over the course of the mostly-silent movie, we are shown the very emotional dynamic of this family. Lee, Evelyn and Regan all constantly blame themselves for the death of the youngest, Beau. Regan believes that Lee blames her for Beau’s death and thus their relationship is strained.

The acting throughout this is phenomenal. Without dialogue, each of them were able to convey exactly what the characters felt and wanted. The emotional connection between these four was palpable and brought tears to my eyes on multiple occasions.

The most powerful part of this movie, however, was the silence. The use of sound – and lack thereof – was my favorite part about this movie. Sure, the beings were terrifying and the CGI was well done. We could easily relate to the family and the amount we could gather without dialogue was fantastic. But the sound. The sound made this movie.

While there is a traditional movie score in this movie – as Krasinski did not want the audience to feel as though they were part of ‘a silence experiment‘ – it is used in such a way that we, as the viewer, can still feel the silence. Every noise was deafening and caused myself and Winters to jump several times.

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Every noise made me genuinely afraid for the well-being of this family. Every single noise evoked some kind of emotion in me, which cultivated in my outright sobbing later on in the movie. But I won’t go into detail about that because I don’t want to spoil anything.

I honestly can’t think of anything bad to say about this movie. I have no suggestions for improvement and no criticism whatsoever. This was masterfully done. The story was captivating, the acting was superb, and the ambiance was enough to keep me at the edge of my seat.

I highly recommend this movie. Let me know what you thought in the comments below!

Review: The Paranormal Cirque

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , on August 24, 2018 by Lilliandra Winters

You come across moments in your life that can disappoint you or invigorate you. When you walk into a place, hope and fear come hand in hand. You wonder if you will walk away from this experience disheartened or clamoring for more.

39403831_469142366901259_3529118328691884032_nWe found out about the Paranormal Cirque a few weeks ago. One time a Facebook algorithm got something right in their ads. Shocked that I’d never heard or seen this prior, I messaged Xander, ‘WE HAVE TO GO!’ which received an ultimate YES from her.

So, we scope out the inexpensive seats, make some plans, fine tune a couple of things and off we go. Of course, we check out the website a handful of times, trying our best not to spoil the show but trying to get answers for important questions.

The day arrives and we leave later than we desire with an added 45 mins of traffic as we make our way up to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, for the show. We stopped and ate, then quickly made our way over to the large red and black tent. As we made our way to the front of the tent, we were greeted with the sounds of screams and were saddened by what we were missing. Unfortunately, the traffic cut into the pre-show they talk about on the website, so we would only make the main show.

Seated in the front row, close enough to the stage that we could touch it, we listened as a thunderstorm began outside, just as the show was about to start.

What is a Cirque without a clown? Our first introduction was to our clown friend. Who, in a few moments of being out, quickly demonstrated why the show is rated R. He’s a bit vulgar, uses some adult language, and has interesting material. We loved every second of it.

I couldn’t tell you what I was expecting. I don’t think I went in with expectations and if I 39289373_469128726902623_6386892088872534016_ndid, they weren’t high. However, all of that was quickly blown out of the water, and I was shown why they are highly rated.

There were dances, comedy acts, a story line… yes, there is a story, acting, light show, plate spinning…

The zombies came out on stage in varying stages of dead and began their acrobatics act. Not only was it wonderfully done, on point and skilled, it was also dangerous. Several stunts could have easily severely injured several of them, but it was entertaining to watch. Talented, entertaining and a great start to the show.

The Giant Hoop Acrobatics (or Cyr Wheel) was stunning, he was unbelievably graceful and I couldn’t take my eyes off of him. His dance was flawless and he made something so difficult seem effortless.

The aerial hoop had me biting my lip. Seeing it on TV is nothing compared to seeing it done in person. It brought out a sense of fear that she was going to fall at any second. She never looked like she was, but with no padding beneath her and only minimal contact with the hoop at times, I was definitely tense. She was so incredible. She never missed a beat and was impressively skilled.

The Hair Hang… are you kidding me?! My head, neck and scalp hurt just watching her. What a brilliant performance. She was fascinating to watch and her spins at the end were incredible and not for the weak of stomach. I spin too fast in my computer chair and I’m sick to my stomach. I adored her performance.

39404713_469110873571075_3341222640592355328_nThe Wheel of Death (or space wheel). It has been a long time since I have seen one and I was shocked when they began setting it up… Inside the tent! I will tell you my favorite part of the Wheel of Death… The gentleman preforming it is insane. I’m sure they all are, but every time his balance was in question or he seemed to miss a step, his smile (which he had the ENTIRE TIME) only got bigger. It was disturbing and awesome.

How to talk to you about the Ring Master? At least that’s what I am calling him. There are two parts to the two-hour show, with a 15 minute break in the middle. The Ring Master was an amazing actor, among other things. He fooled me several times and exuded three totally different personalities in the show. He was comedic and lighthearted during the first half, then serious and almost dangerous in the second. He did several magic tricks. I’m always looking for the secret, it’s just part of who I am. I didn’t see it once. To me, that is incredibly impressive.

One thing I loved is that they didn’t waste a moment. They tore down sets as fast as they put them up and we always had something to watch. We were never left wondering what was going to happen next because you were constantly being entertained. Either by beautiful dances, a hilarious clown, creepy monsters or audience participation. They grab your attention and hold onto it tightly until it is time for intermission.

These are entertainers, artists & actors. Doing several jobs, not just one. The tickets are a steal as well. I honestly felt like I wasn’t paying enough. We can’t wait to do it again.

I do have two cons. First, they don’t take credit cards for refreshments or merchandise. I’m sure if I dug harder we would have found that information out. We would have left with shirts, but we ran out of the little cash we did bring on drinks and popcorn. Second, we didn’t hear a thing their audio said, even the actors with mics were hard to hear at times. I assumed there is a bunch of prerecorded audio, but we couldn’t make out a word of it where we were seated.

Other than that, I highly recommend going. It was an amazing experience that I cannot wait to repeat. Go soon, run if you have to or die trying.

Where did you go?

Posted in Other on August 20, 2018 by Lilliandra Winters

No, not you. Us. I’m sure some of you have noticed that we have, at the moment, created a marvelous disappearing act. I promise we still exist. So what happened?

Yes, we still love 9th Circle of Horror and it will always be our baby. However, life came out of nowhere with a baseball bat to our free time. No matter what we did to try and force 9th into the little bit of free time we did have, we realized we were sacrificing sanity to do so. When you start sacrificing sanity, then you lose quality and you are unhappy with what you are putting out. Then the reader is no longer happy with the crap we produce. It is a slippery slope and rather than kill ourselves and disappoint you, we stepped away. We just forgot to tell everyone.

So now what? We try to manage our time, we work on our stress levels and work load. We manage life until we have the time to give this the proper attention it, and you, deserve. We refuse to put out half assed content because we are better than that. We owe it to ourselves and you.

We didn’t forget about you, about this or our love for horror. We just got busy. We promise we will be back as soon as possible. Miss you!

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See what Xander has to say here:

My Best Friend (Short Story)

Posted in Short Story with tags , , , , , , on November 24, 2017 by Lilliandra Winters

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By Lilliandra Winters

I have a best friend.

You may not think that’s a magnificent thing, but for me it’s rather odd. I never had friends growing up. I’ve always been a bit weird. I tried as hard as I could to make friends, but I never fit in with anyone. Any time I tried too hard, it backfired hard and usually in my face. It left me with a lot of… scars.

For awhile I even stopped being me. I pretended to be whatever people wanted me to be just so we could be friends; just so I could feel what it was like to have a friend. It typically didn’t work, but there were moments in my life where I had a friend… kind of. I can still see their faces clearly in my mind when I close my eyes, but they either used me, didn’t really care or… I dunno. Sometimes it was just a joke. I was bullied, picked on. I was so utterly alone.

I was desperate to be loved.

Desperation can do several things to a person. It can make you stupid, which it did for me. It can also make you bitter. Yeah, bitter. It can make you build up walls high enough and thick enough that it doesn’t matter what they fucking do. Fuck them. Before you get ahead of me, this isn’t some school shooting or revenge story. Just listen.

With my armor of not giving a single fuck, I was finally left alone. I preferred it that way. If people weren’t going to understand me, then they didn’t deserve my time. I would like to say I had better things to do, but that isn’t true. I would hide in my house and play video games, read or listen to music. If you pretend long enough, then it becomes the truth… right?

One day, my life changed. I met her at my stupid, part-time retail job. She pointed at the gaming shirt I was wearing and told me she loved that game. I just kind of stared at her awkwardly and nodded.

‘Cool,’ I said and she walked away.

Right, whatever. I went about my life and didn’t put stock into it. However, the next time we worked together, she asked me what other games I played. Standing in an aisle, at first I looked around thinking she was talking to someone else, but I was the only one there. She had this “yeah, you” look on her face.

I stammered out an answer of my favorite games and what I was currently playing. She had heard of most of them and wanted to play a few. She asked my opinions on a few others and before I realized it we were working and talking at the same time. I even remember smiling. After my shift, I scolded myself.

We don’t make friends and we certainly don’t get our hopes up.

This continued, however, every time we worked together. She would seek me out and we would chat as much as we could get away with. She coaxed my number out of me for texting and connected on social media. I did everything I could to keep that hope at bay, but I started thinking about her when we weren’t talking. I’d share stupid stuff to her that I knew would make her laugh. It was awkward and annoying but it felt so good.

The day she invited me to her house was a shock. I just stared at her and she laughed at the look on my face. Pizza and beers. I could even crash there so I didn’t have to drive home. Before I could think about it my stupid mouth flew open and accepted. My mind swirled about what she could possibly be up to. Was it a prank? What did she have to gain? Maybe hurting people was just amusing?

I showed up, of course. I even brought a bag of overnight stuff, but I left it in the car. She was renting a nice house in the suburb which I found odd but she assured me she got an amazing deal on it. I mean, you can’t beat a nice quiet place… right? It wasn’t what I expected. I expected some trick, but it wasn’t. It was pizza, beer and video games. All night. I even stayed the night in the guest room. It was the best night of my life. I woke up and she made breakfast and coffee and we laughed like we’d known each other forever.

I was this utter whirlwind of emotions. I didn’t want to accept her as a friend, but how could I not? We loved a lot of the same stuff, she loved talking to me about things she loved that I didn’t understand and would do her best to explain it to me in a way that made sense and didn’t make me feel dumb. We spent so much time together, we were practically inseparable. Other people at work even warmed up to me a bit, but I kept them at a distance. She was my best friend… the sister I never had and always wanted. She defended me, stood up for me and loved me for who I really was.

Shut up, we are getting close to the point of the story.

This goes on for months. She invites me over one night and when I show up, I can see that she’s upset. She doesn’t open up about it and I don’t press, but as the night goes on, I finally make her tell me what’s going on. She was near tears and told me that bills were adding up and her raise wasn’t as much as she had hoped on top of the rent going up. She was going to have to move in with family across the country.

I was crushed. I had finally found her and now she was going to leave me. I couldn’t let that happen.

“Well, what if I moved in? …Yeah, this house… hush.”

She was shocked and gave me the biggest hug. I didn’t have much to offer in pay, but it was enough to cover everything. Plus, I needed to get the hell out of my parents’ house. I was sure as shit too old to be living there still, but it’s expensive to be on your own. So, I moved in quickly. Don’t call me an idiot. She wasn’t a stranger. I knew you wouldn’t understand.

We’ve been living together for months and it’s been perfect. We adapted to each other pretty quickly. We had our separate spaces and our hang out spaces. I never got tired of her presence, but she would be exhausted from being around people all day at work and needed breaks to recharge. I was never offended. There was nothing to be offended about. People need what they need. You gotta take care of yourself first.

Where was I? Right!

Plus, we didn’t have room in the living room for all my retro gaming stuff, so we put it in the basement. Uh? Yes, this basement. Stop interrupting me. So, we’d lived together happily for months.

It was bliss… but then something weird happened.

It was as normal a night as any, but my stomach was terribly upset so it kept waking me up. I drank some Pepto and came down for some milk and crackers, hoping it would settle but I heard weird noises coming from the basement. I thought maybe she had brought home a guy or something, but then I got paranoid and went down to check on her.

I pushed the door open and my brain couldn’t process what I was seeing. I’ve never seen so much red at once. The blood covered everything. I stumbled backwards and slipped in it. It was so thick and sticky. Hitting the floor was a jolt to the senses and combined with the smell of copper and rancid meat, I threw up, adding to the noxious mixture of odors and gore, but that is when it caught my eye. A glimpse of movement and a wet smacking noise I couldn’t identify right away. It reminded me of the noises I make when I get amazing ribs. I was shivering from the vomit and I could feel the sweat beading as I squinted to see what was happening behind the bar.

She finally stood up and… I can’t even think about it again without shuddering. She was covered in blood and chunks of meat. Her mouth opened impossibly large, filled with rows of the sharpest teeth I’ve ever seen. Her jaw was unhinged down to her chest, slowly moving back up to adjust back to normal. Her stomach was stretched as if she were suddenly 9 months pregnant with twins.

I gawked, her nakedness was the last thing I noticed, well that and her eyes were a haunting yellow before they returned to their traditional blue. If my jaw could have hit the floor, it would have, which seems an odd thing to say given what I saw. Anyway, our location at least made sense. We were surrounded by grandparents whose hearing wasn’t great. Her? Oh she stood there looking normal, well mostly normal. Tears streaming down her face. She never wanted me to see that.

Why are you laughing?

Ohhhh, you think I’ve made this all up.

Hey, don’t laugh to hard… you’ve drank a LOT and I don’t want you puking. You don’t have to believe me if you don’t want to, but I assure you this is 100% true. What do you mean, did I kill her? Look at me, do you think I could have taken her on? Did I escape? Ha ha…. HA HA HA HA HA HA… escape? Oh, that’s good.

Hey did you figure out my name yet? Where you know me from?…. No? You used to bully me in school, you were pretty fucking awful…

Anyway, to answer your question, I didn’t escape. She’s my best friend, my sister. She didn’t want to hurt me, she was just afraid of what I’d think if I knew the truth… You stopped laughing…

She should have known that I’d never run… I love her… by the way… don’t look behind you.