A likely first encounter with Frank Ocean for most of us would be either on the Tyler, The Creator track She or more recently, No Church In The Wild by Kanye West and Jay-Z. He may well have already surreptitiously reached us through material he wrote for Justin Bieber, Beyonce and John Legend in the last few years. His appearances on Tyler’s Goblin LP crackled with wit and intelligence, both of which have been crystallised on Channel ORANGE.
It could be a stretch for some to palette R&B having perhaps heard the tiresome genre standards of R Kelly and Boys II Men. And if you find yourself cynical at the prospect of having to bridge a whole album’s worth of ‘slow jams’ then you should find three tracks in particular, enticing; Forest Gump for it’s tale of admiration; Thinking Bout You is a reminisce of past relationships and Bad Religion is particularly despairing in it’s talk of god and destitution in unrequited love. From here on out you’ll be curious to absorb the rest and be rewarded for doing so.
There are several façades to this quietly intelligent album. From Crack Rock, the parable of an increasingly ostracised drug addict that’s not without it’s humour (“You used to get a little cut-up from time to time/But the freaks ain’t trying to sleep with cracky”) toSuper Rich Kids and Sweet Life which detail the desensitised over-privilege of a Southern Californian youth (“Too many joyrides in daddy’s Jaguar/Too many white lies and white lines”). It’s the perfect ballad for Bret Easton Ellis’ Less Than Zero, putting to bed any efforts Kele Okereke made on Bloc Party’s A Weekend In The City.
There’s some fitting interludes too including the instrumental White featuring John Mayer as well as a humorous Stevie Wonder-like Fertilizer. Andre 3000 appears surprisingly late-on during Pink Matter to unmistakably change up the vocal pace and syllable count.
R&B has not been done like this before; it’s romantic but reflective, there are ballads minus the schmaltz and intimate encounters dispensing with gory detail. Ocean’s vocals are extremely sparing, holding space as important as the smoothly delivered melodies with zero indulgent warbling. There’s as much sub bass and 808 percussion as you’d come to expect but more surprisingly there’s gently fizzling, phasing and arpeggiating synth soundscapes akin to Vangelis and emotive, Coldplay-like organ drones.
Undoubtedly informed by a stoic struggle with his sexuality, some cynics thought his open letter on Tumblr was timed as publicity to coincide with the album’s release. But his honesty only goes on to make Channel ORANGE that much more a confessional, endearing listen and a huge surprise in a wearily machismo and misogynist genre.
Manhunt is surely one of the most depraved videogames of all time and it’s preface cannot justify it’s content. Our anti-hero protagonist James Earl Cash is on death row and whilst he is reported to have been executed, ex-Vinewood moviemaker Starkweather (voiced by Brian Cox) intervenes, sparing Cash in a bid to use him as his lead in a snuff film. As Cash you’re guided by the rogue director through a series of set-ups where stealth and patience are key. You are filmed committing brutal mêlées and executions to the delight of Starkweather, in exchange for your freedom. You eventually help a journalist present at your execution, expose Starkweather after he tries to snuff out Cash resulting in a final stand-off between the two.
Gameplay on the whole is centred around a Thief/Metal Gear Solid brand of stealth. To avoid detection, stay out of sight and make as little noise as possible. Your visibility is represented by an indicator in the bottom right of your screen that will darken when you are safely hidden in the shadows. Making noise (represented by growing red circumferences on your radar) by stumbling over bins, rushing through swinging doors and running – especially over noisier gravel surfaces – could give you away. A corpse left in full view will also alert enemies to your presence so you should move cadavers out of sight or into the shadows. You can deceive enemies with yellow inventory items; bricks, bottles and even severed heads can be thrown in order to distract them.
On the grislier side of things is the executions and the three levels of severity by which you’ve to carry them out. On approaching a victim from behind, Cash’s stance changes and so will your target’s locator colour depending on the amount of time you stalk them at close proximity. Initially white, the locator will change to yellow and finally to red where your attacks will be most brutal. However the ease at which you may stalk a ‘hunter’ varies depending on how alert they are to your presence. In play using the ‘Hardcore’ difficulty setting, an attacker will appear on your radar (radar absent when playing ‘Fetish’, the most difficult of the two settings) as a chevron, changing colour from yellow (idle), orange (suspicious) and red (attack inevitable). The location of the chevron on your radar also indicates their proximity and the direction in which they are facing. The music develops in-sync with the awareness of the enemy, building from ambient soundscapes to shrill strings into pacey percussive tempos with buzzing 80s synths, reminiscent of a John Carpenter composed soundtrack.
The violence is certainly the most striking element of gameplay with an abundance of weapons, tools and household items creatively applied to make for gory and wince-inducing encounters. Although some attacks stand out as inexcusably depraved, instances in which gameplay is sometimes least enjoyable. For example use of the knife or glass shard on a red level attack sees Cash plunge the blade into a victim’s spine then stab them in each eye; a white level attack with an axe has the enemy turn to have a single blow of the blade to their face combined with the hollow crunch of their collapsing skull. The machete at any level, results in the decapitation of your attacker after three blows to their neck with the blade. The resultant severed head can then be kept in your inventory as a yellow deception item…!
Your inventory is colour coded; green indicates single-use weapons (plastic bag, wire, glass shard), blue are smaller reusable weapons inflicting moderate damage (knife, crowbar, revolver) and heavier weapons are red inflicting the most damage (baseball bat, shotgun, sniper rifle). Guns can be used at close proximity as well as in shoot-out scenarios, in which you can peek around walls and over benches to take shots at your aggressors.
If in time you find yourself desensitised to all the blood and amorality, the ambience and atmosphere will keep you hooked. The slummy Carcer City with it’s dreary, muted colour palette is awash with abandoned junkyards, factories and warehouses, your typical Saw saga fare and perfect for the different ‘hunter’ gangs to lurk in. The Hoods, Skinz, Innocents and Wardogs are some of your prey; a series of chauvinistic, blood-hungry grunts where the Smileys are most disturbing. Some are generally infantile and troubled whilst others – from snatches of their rambling monologues – seem to have a complicated and murderous back story.
Manhunt caused controversy in Australia, Germany and New Zealand where it was banned however attracted even more negative attention in the UK when it was implied in the murder case of one Stefan Pakeerah. The attacker’s mother stated in court that he was “obsessed” with the game, however in spite of this evidence and the attacker’s weapon being a hammer (a weapon used in the game) it was cleared by police but still taken off shelves in branches of Game and Dixons, only to increase interest in the title.
It’s sequel Manhunt 2 follows Danny and his escape from a psychiatric hospital. He’s suffering from amnesia and attempting to piece together his history whilst being encouraged by the omnipresent voice of fellow inmate Leo, to ruthlessly kill anyone in his way.
This sequel saw a protracted battle for release in the UK as it was initially banned by the BBFC in 2007, the first time a videogame had been met with such a decision since Carmageddon in 1997. BBFC President David Cooke noted the “unremitting bleakness and callousness of tone” as well as there being “sustained and cumulative casual sadism in the way in which killings are committed, and encouraged, in the game.” After edits were made including moments of violence masked by distortion effects, it was resubmitted to the Board, issued an 18 certificate and saw release a year later on Halloween 2008.
The nature of the violence did prove more coarse and sadistic where the environment and objects around you could now be used in executions. Victims could be bludgeoned against urinals in toilets or battered with nearby telephone sets and strangled by the receiver chord. Especially severe moments included hoisting victims up to the rafters by a meat hook through their back, pinning a victim to a chair by knives through their hands and pushing victims into an iron maiden and slamming the spiked doors shut on them.
The baseness of the violence in this sequel wasn’t the worst of it, the physical actions required of the gamer in the real world put the player in an awkward position. On the PC version it’s necessary to aggressively sweep, click and thrust the mouse to inflict damage where the Wii version demands that you swing the nunchuk controller down and about, making you the unsettling puppeteer for the violence on screen.
It was inferior to the original Manhunt as it was hard to muster any sympathy at all for Danny’s predicament where levels including the set of a kids TV show and the grimy sleaze of a whore house made for a particularly sour practice. Manhunt 2 was for a time available uncut for PC in 2009 from US website Direct2Drive (download only and no longer available since Gamefly’s acquisition of Direct2Drive) and it’s important to note that this was the version the BBFC banned from sale in the UK. If you can stomach it I recommend finding a copy, just to see for yourself what the BBFC took issue with.
Sheer enjoyment is borne of initial disgust and the original Manhunt is one of my favourite games of all time. The stealth element of the game is extremely tense and the all-guns-blazing levels are a nice change up on occasion too. Whilst visually dated after nearly ten years, the grim violence and dense atmosphere means the whole thing plays like a big, interactive video nasty. There’s even a grainy video effect to give it the feel of murky, analogue camcorder footage and the game’s main menu with the options ‘Play’, ‘Scenes’ and ‘Bonus Features’ all adds to the feel of you having attained a copy of an under-the-counter snuff film. The dexterous gameplay building a steady crescendo to the moment of an execution is utterly thrilling, the remorseless violence only lending itself to a more absorbing stealth/horror experience.
Compiled footage of executions from Manhunt and Manhunt 2.
Halloween is upon us once again! We blogged last year in the weeks running up to the 31st, our all time top ten horror films and here’s the list again in it’s entirety! A combined selection of any of these would make for the perfect frightfest in your very own living room. Happy Halloween!
TAPE’s Top Ten Horror Films
With Halloween upon us, and as big movie enthusiasts, we’re going to regularly blog in ascending order up until the 31st, our top ten horror films. This won’t be the most conventional of lists but we’re not intentionally avoiding the “classics” because some of them are on there.
So many horror film countdowns are graced with the usual fare; The Exorcist, Alien, Psycho – everyone knows these are great films and if you haven’t seen them then let’s be honest you have been living in cave however, some of the aforementioned don’t quite cut it for us! We reckon Alien is a more impressive work of sci-fi than horror, The Exorcist loses it’s charm quite quickly on repeat viewings and Psycho isn’t even in colour…!
Our picks are thrilling, gory, shocking, and sometimes funny! We highly recommend every single one on the list.
#10 – The Ruins (dir. Carter Smith, 2008)
This has only been out a couple of years and went pretty much completely unnoticed but we reckon it’s a thoroughly enjoyable body-horror type flick. It establishes itself very credibly for a film which is essentially about killer plants! And before that puts you off, it’s no ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. It’s unsettling, truly horrific on occasion and makes you wince vigorously in all the right places. It’s £3 quid on DVD in HMV so go get it in time for the 31st!
#9 – Outpost (dir. Steve Barker, 2008)
This is a fantastically fun action-romp with the the un-dead but as you’ve never seen them before! These are Nazi zombie/apparitions (pre-dating Dead Snow) which haunt an underground bunker in which the SS carried out experiments in order to create an invincible army of the 3rd Reich. A crack team of misfits are put together by a scientist seeking access to the spooky eastern European bunker and of course, chaos ensues. It’s violent and gory (there’s an especially graphic sequence in which a bullet casing is pushed into a victim’s eyeball) and our protagonists all get picked off one at a time in classic fashion.
Interestingly it cost only £1million to make which may make it low budget by definition but it actually boasts more spills and thrills than you’d expect from a flick you probably never heard of, filmed in Glasgow!
You may have heard of Quarantine starring Jennifer Carpenter of Dexter fame but for those who don’t know, Quarantine is actually an extremely faithful though slightly inferior remake of the original Spanish-made REC. Effectively zombies, they’re actually unlucky hosts to a form of rabies. REC is of the ‘found footage’ sub-genre (Paranormal Activity, Blair Witch, Cloverfield) and sees a news reporter and her cameraman trapped in an apartment block locked down by the authorities to try and contain an outbreak of the disease. The residents are left terrified and at the disposal of the infected, and of course, the camera is left running the whole time!
It contains the single most terrifying sequence in cinema I have ever experienced and is relentlessly tense from start to finish.
#7 – The Mist (dir. Frank Darabont, 2007)
Following The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile, Frank Darabont tackles another Stephen King adaptation which focuses on the human condition and where our priorities lie in the lawless micro-society of supermarket shoppers who’re being picked off by bizarre creatures from another dimension! Sounds ridiculous but that is essentially the premise of this fantastic film.
It presents itself initially as a creature-feature; tentacles and creepy crawlies all present and correct but it unfolds to be disturbing in ways I’ve rarely seen grappled in horror and cinema in general. Nigh on utterly devoid of hope or sentiment it’s also daring as it features the most depressing and tragic conclusion you will ever bare witness to!
#6 – An American Werewolf In London (dir. John Landis, 1981)
The film that Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright owe a great debt to as it lays the foundation for the feel of their yet to be concluded Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy with a fantastic mix of tongue-in-cheek comedy and sometimes genuinely disturbing violence and gore.
It follows two American back-packers who end up lost on the bleak moors of Yorkshire and come to be attacked by a monstrous entity. Our protagonist, David, comes-to in a London hospital haunted by a mauled apparition of his friend and he soon discovers that he is actually a werewolf himself, coming to terms with all of this amongst a romantic encounter with his attending nurse and a whole soundtrack consisting of moon-themed songs!
#5 – Shaun of the Dead (dir. Edgar Wright, 2004)
The first instalment in Pegg/Wright’s Blood and Ice Cream Trilogy, it quite faithfully follows conventional George A. Romero format zombies. Not rabid, athletic and agile 28 Days Later types, sluggish, vacant, bloodied and moaning – the ones we’ve all come to know and love. It’s got fantastic wit, bloody violence, kinetic direction from Wright and is peppered with geeky TV and movie homages (some nods are made to their very own Spaced!). Wright is fantastically tuned to Frost and Pegg, especially the latter as a co-writer and they’re an unstoppable force. It’s a zombie-apocalypse with a comedic twist and we’d be very surprised if you haven’t already sampled it’s delights!
#4 – The Shining (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
This superbly twisted outing for Kubrick sees a typically on-form Jack Nicholson as Jack, a writer cooped up at the Overlook Hotel, deep in the mountains of Denver for the winter with his wife and child, who become victim to his his cabin fever-fuelled, violent outbursts! Nicholson gives an intense and sinuous performance which is terrifying with a humorous twist in some of it’s delivery. All work and no play does indeed make Jack a dull boy!
#3 – Jurassic Park (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1993)
Somewhat of a wild-card entry and never really referred to as ‘horror’ but it definitely fits the bill! As much monsters, gore, suspense and frights as it’s PG certificate will ever permit, I don’t need to say much about this one as there’s no way you haven’t already seen it but it’s tense, very exciting and… surprisingly quotable.
#2 – Evil Dead 2 (dir. Sam Raimi, 1987)
Effectively a re-make of it’s widely banned video-nasty predecessor, it works independently from it and far out guns it too. A horror-comedy in a different vein, it’s far more slapstick and one-liner based and utterly brilliant! Our unwitting Ash takes a love interest to a secluded shack in the woods for a romantic weekend but events take a ghoulish turn when it seems “pure-evil” lurks in the woods there and menacingly looks to possess and kill all of the shack’s residents. Featuring some ridiculous and unforgettable sequences, I won’t say much more than you must, must, must check it out!
#1 – The Thing (dir. John Carpenter, 1982)
Certainly one of the greatest films of all-time, The Thing follows Mac as part of another ensemble of characters situated at an Antarctic military outpost whom encounter a Norwegian helicopter mysteriously chasing and reeling off rifle rounds at a supposedly innocent canine. But nothing is as it seems as man’s best friend is actually a shape-shifting alien in dog guise! This alien can host and perfectly imitate any other life form it comes into contact with so there’s tension and a crisis of trust in the ranks as there are doubts as to who’s human and who isn’t!
A ridiculous amount of imagination was employed in the creation of the creature effects which sometimes stretches to the insane, but always fantastically creepy with the inclusion of tentacles, arthropod type appendages, blood and goo in it’s many fountains and splatters. A brilliantly instilled feeling of isolation and uncertainty uniquely mixed with said creature effects gives this film an unmatched formula. If you enjoyed this you needn’t wait long for The Thing prequel, scheduled for release in April 2011! (Update: The Thing prequel will be released in the UK this December)