So it’s been almost a full year to avoid talking particular spoilers about Ghost of Tsushima, but enough time has passed that the fact you haven’t played it is on you.
There’s a lot of discussion points I would love to cover, but the thing that has been weighing heavily (and I do mean heavily) on my noggin is the death of Jin Sakai’s beloved equine companion Kage/Kaze/Sora/Nobu. That scene utterly *DESTROYED* me. This may sound like hypberole but when control was given back to me after a truly torturous and tragic cutscene, I couldn’t bear to play the game any longer… besides it was *very* late and I HAD to get some sleep.
Blubbering like a baby, snot dribbling from my nose, eyes stinging with hot tears, I turned off my console, had my shower, the ugly crying not letting up for one second before I lay down and cried myself to sleep. You’d think I had actually lost a loved one in real life.
It was… it was something to see, boy howdy.
Waking up the following morning, eyes still puffy, snout stuffy and head still hurting a little, I asked myself why I had reacted so strongly to THAT particular moment. Make no mistake, Jin had suffered so much in the story to that point with numerous counts of emotional torment ranging from the loss of friends, family, betrayal, war in general, our man goes through A LOT. So why did my dam break when Jin whispered “I’m sorry I couldn’t protect you.” to the gorgeous animal who had become a stalwart companion in and out of gameplay?
Was it the visual of the horse trying to walk with the fatigued Jin slumped in his saddle before finally collapsing from exhaustion and mortal pain due to the arrows and injuries it sustained during their flight from Castle Shimura?
Perhaps it’s the fact the scene takes place in what could be interpreted as the realm of the dead in Japanese folklore, in the frozen wastes of Tsushima Island?
Was it the sorrowful soundtrack as it was paired with Daisuke Tsuji’s astounding vocal performance?
It was entirely through Sucker Punch’s brilliant ability to emotionally manipulate the player. It was ALL of those things.
From the very beginning of the game when Jin selects his steed from a war-torn stable, the player builds up a subconscious bond with the animal just like our protagonist does. Throughout the narrative, you see and hear Jin interacting with the horse through words of praise, playful interplay, petting and feeding it and sharing emotional moments, a personal favourite of mine being when Jin is grieving, the horse will nuzzle and let Jin stroke it’s head, agggghhhh, it’s so fucking beautiful!
Until that scene, the horse is practically immortal. No matter how many times you are shot at by Mongols and other malcontents, the horse just gets up and runs away until the threat has been dealt with. You ride off a high-ish ledge, the horse will fall but will pop up again as if to say “What? I’m fine. Are you okay?”
All of these elements we take for granted are thrown right back in our face when that horse collapses from the injuries it has sustained by being shot, not by Khotun Khan and his Mongol forces, but Jin’s own uncle’s samurai.
But here’s the thing; narratively, that horse HAD to die.
The death of the horse was a culmination of all of Jin’s failures up until that point and because of their friendship, that was the moment that signifies the true mentally lowest point for Jin. However, the scene wisely doesn’t resort to melodrama or bombast. It is a quiet, respectful and intimate parting of friends. This moment is portrayed as the culmination of Jin’s misery, his lowest point where he has sunk so far. Because of this, Jin’s eventual rise to fight Khotun Khan and retake Tsushima is all the more impactful because the stakes are incredibly high.
Jin stays by the horse’s side, stroking it’s face gently, being present, not saying another word other than his aforementioned regret of not protecting his friend.
However, another reason why I felt this impacted so heavily on me is that when I have taken my old and ailing pets to the vet to release them of their suffering, I have always stayed by their side as they are put to sleep. It never gets easier, but in my mind, being there for them as they close their eyes one last time gives them a final comfort as it my last act of love for them. It’s the least I feel that I can do for all of their years of love toward me.
Mercifully, we don’t witness the horse draw it’s final breath and Jin howling his pain to the darkened skies above. That would have been cheap and would have undermined all of that the story had been. The scene fades out before fading back in again, to show a passage of time. Jin has taken the time to dig a grave and buried his loyal friend decently as a smoldering forest burned by the Mongols blows specks of embers through the air. It’s one of the saddest sequences I have ever seen, not just in a game, but in general because of how astutely it treats everything and how close it strikes to my own experiences. It breaks the heart, but not for the sake of sensationalistic pandering or in the name of sadism.
Emotionally devastating, unforgettable and incredible story telling which, as I was writing this piece, STILL makes me tear up and sob.
Decades after Bela Lugosi dazzled and terrified as Dracula in Tod Browning’s seminal 1931 film, Count Dracula was fiercely resurrected by the dark magic of Hammer Films in the formidable shape of Christopher Frank Carandini Lee which turned out to become a long-running franchise full of hits and misses. While later tales fully embraced sex, blood and nudity, in my opinion, the true essence of the series remains back in the first few instalments, back when mere mortal men feared him and women tremblingly desired him. In Terrence Fishers’ full colour Horror of Dracula, or Dracula as it was known outside of the UK, there was still a lot of fear to be felt, but also, an intense infusion of overt animal sexuality.
When Hammer Studios assembled, it primarily made comedies, noirs, dramas and thrillers, but it was the mid-’50s that truly saw the birth of what would become collectively known as Hammer Horror. This was the time period that many a horror and Dracula fan will remember profoundly because the moment they bore witness to crimson-mawed Christopher Lee with blazing red eyes, and pointed teeth hissing like a blood-starved beast, they knew they were about to be in very different company from Lugosi’s suave after dark unman-about-town.
Despite the time period of which Horror of Dracula was made, this is quite a sumptuous looking picture. You can only imagine how the sight of bright red blood must have shocked movie goers back in the day. With this knowledge, the production milks every frame, every scene for what it’s worth. Although there are no technically fancy camera angles, Fisher more than made up for it by really working every other facility- lighting, dramatic music score, composition, it’s a wonderful amalgam. A bevy of brutal stakings, juicy crucifix burns, bloody bite marks AND a graphic decomposition, all of it blameless and made by hand. Can you imagine how those audiences felt seeing this for the first time back in the day? While considerably tame by today’s standards, the movie was made with an eye to make it the best product it could possibly be.
On top of what we see in terms of visuals, we have ourselves a talented cast. It’s not a diamond in the rough affair in terms of actors- the key players all perform with charisma to spare, Melissa Stribling as Mina, especially. For the most part, she is a proper Victorian woman dearly devoted to her husband, Arthur and her duty of care to her sister in law, the sickly Lucy. One of my favourite sequences involves Mina after she first falls into Dracula’s clutches. In a subtly titillating scene, Stribling delivers a performance with a certain lascivious glint in her eye which causes the audience to wonder “What DID Dracula do to her?”.
Another player that gives a formidable show is the singular Peter Cushing as Professor Abraham Van Helsing. He may not be Dutch and he may not have a small dose of the crazy such as his literary counterpart, but I would feel a lot safer if I had Cushing’s Van Helsing in my corner. Self-assured, rational, comforting and resourceful, he is a worthy nemesis for Lee’s cunning bloodsucker. After his extremely villainous turn one year earlier as the dastardly Doctor Frankenstein in Hammers’ The Curse of Frankenstein, Van Helsing provided Cushing the opportunity to play an undisputed hero and he works beautifully.
What of Lees’ Dracula, you ask? Simply, there is nothing remotely original I can voice that hasn’t already been said.
Towering, imposing, handsome and lethal, he is sovereign, barbarian and lothario rolled into one. Although the later notion is only lightly hinted, you get it from the get go that Dracula can be a sexual predator. He lays claim to women whenever he pleases and he throws them aside as if they were nothing when he is sick of them, sometimes in violent ways. Everybody is part of his sanguineous banquet, even if they don’t know it just yet. In that essence, he is Stoker’s Dracula- a foreign, powerful virile supreme who can make any man fear for their lives, and for the faithfulness of their women. I would be lying if I said that this Dracula wasn’t arousing, despite how cruel he is. Lee’s Dracula has everything going for him, up until the moment Van Helsing finally disposes of him in pure gruesome fashion befitting a gruesome monster. Despite the fact that the character would become cheapened through the series, folks loved Lee and here, you can see why.
Horror ofDracula is unmissable. Not only did it make a bonafide horror star out of Lee, this film truly set the benchmark for further Draculas to come by the instrumentation of frights and sexuality. This is not a faithful adaption, but Fishers’ rendition is a highly respectable and self-contained take on Stoker’s literary legend which would influence depictions of the King of Vampires for years to come.
BT Dubs: This poster is one of the best things I have ever seen. Look at how he looms over his vulnerable female victim as both lover and aggressor, hand firmly against her flesh, teeth bared, conquest inevitable. “The terrifying lover who died… yet lived!“. You can’t get any more sensational and accurate as that.
Exploitation films by common definition are not meant to be high art or sterling looks into the human spirit, but in the hands of Jess Franco, that generalisation tends to come apart. Franco had an eye for turning trash into treasure and prurience into precious. With his luminous muse of eternity Soledad Miranda in tow, She Killed In Ecstasy has huge reason to be a widely-adored underground cult favourite.
The Johnsons have it all.
Money, good health, impeccably OTT 70’s fashion sense and regularly making fiery passionate love on their shag pile rug. Mr. Johnson is a successful doctor who is brilliant at what he does (growing human embryos from animal cells, completely normal practice!), however there are vengeful rivals out there who wish to put him out of commission- permanently. When Mr. Johnson is disgraced and discredited, he takes his own life, but Mrs. Johnson (Miranda) is determined to make those responsible for her beloved husbands’ death pay with interest, in some cases, plus an edged weapon and minus her clothes.
The sexually charged, insane and homicidal ‘black widow’ trope has been duplicated time and again in the history of cinema, some instances more credible than others. Such a basic narrative element is perfect exploitation fodder, but Franco donates a fresh burst energy to a tired formula, with the help from the exquisite and enigmatic Miranda. Miranda could have overacted her heart out in this role, but here, rather than going into histrionics, she radiates a volcanic intensity combined with a massive sense of deep-rooted pathos. She isn’t just some one-note loon- she is a woman who was in love and her love was taken from her cruelly.
In her eyes, the retribution must fit the crime. While she does bare her divine body several times, you get the feeling it’s not due to Franco pandering to the hot-blooded masculine sense of entitlement. She is doing it as a means to an end- to avenge the loss of her life and subsequently her sanity. What adds more to the tragedy of Mrs. Johnson is the fact that shortly after this film was completed, Ms. Miranda died in a terrible car accident- in an essence, this movie was her swan song, but it also became a part of an immortal legacy. While the other performances in the movie are certainly worth their salt, there is no denying this was Mirandas’ show. She is the core of the story and the reason why we care.
Visually, Franco is at his prime; mind-bending psychedelic colours and sensuous serpentine shadows saturate each frame- it feels like being hypnotised by a siren’s call laced with LSD. It oozes danger but also sensuality and mystery that you cannot deny even if you wanted to. The use of sound and music in the movie (masterfully composed by Manfred Hübler and Siegfried Schwab), as with many other of Franco’s works, has that trademark sublime, insectile quality that burrows into your brain and digs its delicate pincers in and does not let go. Truly, a unique cinematic bouquet for the senses.
Upon further viewings, She Killed In Ecstasy encourages the viewer to ask themselves many pertinent questions, but I believe this question is key- what would you do if you lost somebody you love to a terrible fate? How far would you go to avenge them? How would you live with yourself if you committed the very crime that was committed against you? Would you retain your sanity or would you begin to slip? Rather than provide the answers to these questions, She Killed In Ecstasy offers a point of view. A troubling, psychological and erotically manipulative point of view which is impossible to ignore.
I feel I am going to struggle in how I can adequately explain my feelings about this movie.
Horrorotic psychedelia maestro Jess Franco’s Spanish-German approach to the tale of Dracula begins as a very respectable take on Stoker’s prose only to descend into what can only be described as whacky madness.
I… I guess it was entertaining, but this film is not without a massive dose of WTF-ery as the run time clocked forward.
Jess Franco is a director I enjoy generally, and he has made some of my favourite films, all of them with a distinct note of sexuality and horror. There are some people out there who would argue that his films are glorified soft porn, and to an extent, yes, that is true, but softcore porn doesn’t come (sorry) with fascinating characters, gorgeous camera work, eclectic soundtrack (I love the almost insectile score featured in some of his films), and intense visuals all the while being part of a story.
Franco’s films are usually imbued with a distinct sense of European erotica with a dreamy scent of monachopsis. His other offerings Vampyros Lesbos, She Killed In Ecstasy, Eugenie De Sade and Eugenie… the Story of Her Journey Into Perversion are the best examples of Franco combining sex with classic literature all the while retaining class and aesthetic sensibility.
Upon completion of viewing El Conde Dracula, I was a little taken aback about how chaste the film was. Now, given this is Franco trying to be genuine, I wasn’t expecting his token psychedelia , but I almost felt as if Franco wasn’t the right person to direct this picture, at least for the first hour or so.
Franco plays it almost down the middle, trying to tell the story as it happened- young green-thumb solicitor Jonathan Harker (a very pretty Fred Williams) sets out to meet with Dracula (Christopher Lee- AGAIN!), just as it was written in the novel, complete with featured dialogue. However, as soon as Dracula sets his elegant boots upon Londonian soil, that is where Franco starts to lose his load. He does not drop the magic completely, but the transition from traditional story-telling to dreamy and whacked out hits like a freight train. I guess you could attribute this change of pace to Dracula’s supernatural ways and his means of influence, but it still feels incredibly out of place. On top of that, despite this craziness, Franco’s token sexuality is mysteriously absent. I’m not criticizing the movie because it doesn’t have sex, but if Franco wanted to make his take on the story, it would have been far suitable if he did it in the style he was comfortable with rather than resorting to pretense.
That being said, that’s not to say it is without it’s merits. Aside from Franco’s token visual splendors and trippy soundtrack, you have Christopher Lee playing a far closer to the book interpretation of Dracula than his Hammer equivalent. When you first see him, he is an old man, with a long iron-coloured beard and a deeply foreboding presence. He doesn’t leap around, snarling and behaving like an animal like Lee’s alternate Dracula did. Here, he retains a lot of the novel Dracula’s characterization and he comes off like a champion. Lee himself said he was proud to have taken part in the movie because he felt that Franco didn’t cheapen the character the way Hammer in the later years had and that pride comes through.
Another actor who shines is the gale force that is Klaus Kinski as Renfield. Rather than go all out in his insanity and parasitic desperation for the Counts’ approval, Kinskis’ Renfield comes off as a little quieter and despite those Manson Lamp Eyes of his, his rendition of everybody’s favourite entomophagic lunatic comes off as a little more honest to the original character. A quick aside here, nine years later, Kinski would be playing a very different version of Dracula in Werner Herzog’s excellent remake/retooling Nosferatu.
I would also be foolish if I did not mention Francos’ muse, the illuminating Soledad Miranda, as Lucy. Miranda was not a conventionally classic beauty, but she had a mystifying and magnetic aura about her which far surpassed her looks. She was an exotic and intriguing woman with a timelessly Gothic and glamorous aesthetic, much like Barbara Steele, who could say so much with her eyes in every role she had. Miranda injects Lucy with a sense of fragility as well as ethereal wonder. Her sequences with Lee are nothing short of hypnotizing.
So, what happened that made me ultimately less enjoy this movie? Aside from my previous statements regarding Franco’s preferred method of film making and some throwaway casting (Maria Rohm barely makes an impression as Mina and Herbert Lom as Van Helsing isn’t featured nearly as much as the character deserves), there are some scenes that really have no right to be there. Case in point- in one scene that is meant to be frightening, the stuffed heads of animals in a den come alive and menace several characters complete with dizzyingly ridiculous camera work. Now, what movie does that remind you of? If you answered Evil Dead II you are utterly correct.
I have nothing against trying to go outside the norm, but in saying that, the moment Franco whipped that sequence out of his bent top hat I was shaking my head with a smirk of chagrin. Not with the sheer absurdity, but at it. What was Franco smoking when he came up with that? Can I have some? The ironic twist is that El Conde Dracula was made before Evil Dead II. Oh, Franco, what were you thinking-o?
Also, the pacing. This film does have a brief run time, but sometimes, and this isn’t the only movie guilty of this, Franco doesn’t quite know when to quit-o. He has a tendency to spend a lot of time focusing on one frame even when there really isn’t a lot happening and when the action does happen, it gets drawn out to an almost tenuous length at times that you just want Monty Python to pop up and say “Get on with it.”.
El Conde Dracula genuinely tries to be respectable to the source, and that I can very much appreciate, but it’s greatest foil is the fact the film maker isn’t being true to his values. If he had wanted to make his very own spin of Dracula complete with his signature heady sexuality, I would have been all for it, because Franco’s true mastery lay within that arena.
That being said, I wouldn’t have minded seeing a gorgeous European stud style Dracula charm his way under many a babealicious underskirt as long as Franco had done it his way. Then again, if I wanted to see that, I could just imagine said gorgeous European stud style Drac crawling up under my sheets, his hands removing my bodice as I reach for hisOOOOoops, sorry. Overshare?
Trigger Warning: This is a film which was made in the 70s with some extremely problematic themes and content that may not be ideal for audiences with a sensitive disposition.
A film maker always takes a huge gamble when it comes to adapting any genre of literature because they are not only sticking their necks out professionally, but also, they are at the mercy of the fans of the story they are adapting for the visual medium. We have all seen this happen sometime during our lives, the adaption either nails the story the way we want to see it, or it completely misses the point and in certain cases, comes off as genuinely offensive.
The same goes for anything based off the infamous Donatien Alphonse François, or as we know him, the Marquis de Sade, who, ever since the 17th century, has earned many a title from his work- pervert, predator, intellectual and cultural observer among but a few. You have folks who absolutely abhor his work, dismissing it as crass and cheap and you have others who feel he offers the most insightful commentary on society, specifically human sexual desire and taboo.
Before we continue, here are my brief thoughts on de Sade- the man knew what made human desires tick and he was unflinching in writing about it. At the same time however, if you actually read his work, it comes off as a XXX version of commedia dell’arte because of how bombastic the characters and their sexual acts are. My thoughts aside, it takes a lot of gut and intuition to translate de Sade to the big screen in a way that doesn’t come off as senseless pornography but at the same time stays true to what de Sade was about- the deconstruction of human nature at it’s most debased and the consequences which follow.
In the hands of Jess Franco, it is safe to say Eugenie… Her Journey into Perversion based off De Sade’s La Philosophie dans le boudoir delivers in terms of style, sexuality and substance.
Ripe, innocent and sexually curious Eugenie (a delicious Marie Liljdahl) is friends with the sophisticated and experienced Madame St. Ange (glacial sex empress Maria Rohm). What Eugenie doesn’t know is that Madame is one half of an obsessive quasi-incestuous tag team, the other half being her STEP-brother Mirvel (Jack Taylor with penetrating reptilian eyes), both who zealously abide by the extremities of Sadeian philosophy. Madame seduces Eugenie’s gullible father into allowing Eugenie to spend the weekend at their luxurious estate on the private island in the middle of nowhere she and Mirvel own.
Yes, you read that correctly.
A PRIVATE ISLAND.
From there, Madame and Mirvel indulge in a sick, twisted game, using Eugenie as their soft, pliable instrument of torturous pleasure, messing with her mind, body and soul. Will Eugenie escape or will she succumb?
For the majority, I adore Franco’s work and here he proves that he is the master of the horrorotic psychedelia. Despite the dark and immoral acts that take place on this luxurious private island, they are hidden by clear blue skies, shimmering gossamer and vibrant ’60’s chic bathed in hot-blooded sexuality. Everything about this movie is so languidly sumptuous you will feel as if you are in a dream that never relinquishes its’ power over you.
This naughty little gem could have easily been a mere excuse for sexploitation sleaze (which it still is and that’s awesome), but Maestro Franco adds his very own special touch which turns it into what could be akin to artistry. Despite the subject matter, this movie has class and that is what distinguishes it from the other run-off-the-mill nudie films.
Unless you are a prude, this movie will turn you on in so many ways- physically AND intellectually, and dare I say, it may even get you laid.
I said MAY.
Oh, did I mention Christopher Lee shows up as a crimson tuxedoed omniscient sex wizard who allegedly wasn’t aware he was in a boobie movie ? Because he totally does.
Hello and welcome to another series I may never finish, See You Next Tuesday Couture where I will be harping and simping examining and discussing two of my favourite pursuits; fashion and villainy. To me, villains more often than not are the most well-dressed characters in fiction. In order for a character to be memorable, they need to be distinctive and and having a particular sense of style fashion-wise is one of those crucial aspects. When it comes to self-expression, fashion is one the primary avenues we use when we want to send a message, project agenda and establish a state of mind. How we choose to dress is a reflection and indication of identity, and fictional characters are no different. In today’s case, we will be having a look at the wardrobe of Khotun Khan, the main antagonist of Sucker Punch’s 2020 game Ghost of Tsushima.
The self-proclaimed cousin of Kublai Khan and grandson of Genghis, Khotun’s non-verbal introduction in the prologue of Ghost of Tsushima is undoubtedly one of the most memorable and character establishing sequences ever. Automatically, we completely understand what the man is all about; he takes absolutely no shit and gives absolutely no fucks. Massive yet surprisingly quick, brutally formidable, pragmatic and authoritative (and kinda hot, jussayin’), one needn’t wonder or doubt Khan has been able to conquer nations before he and his Mongol horde yoked Tsushima. He is the avatar of the Mongol Empire in absolute. While we do not see much of the guy throughout the campaign, when he does show, he commands and magnetizes every scene he’s in and you can’t help but love him and hate him all at once.
Of course, like all contemporary entertainment which translates the past into a digestible package for mass consumption, Ghost of Tsushima makes no pretense of being one hundred percent authentic, nevertheless, the developers at Sucker Punch took care to incorporate some respectfully accurate details into their quasi-mythical tale, case in point, the armor worn by various characters, Khan included.
Mongolian armor, much like the people who wore it, was practical, adaptive and easy to maintain whilst on their relentless nomadic conquests. Due to not having the benefit of sedentary services such as blacksmiths, armor and arsenal were made on the move and designed to endure various climates and applications and incorporated influence from Chinese, Middle Eastern and Central Asian aesthetics. For the most part, Mongolian armory consisted of hardened leather, fur and iron laced onto a fabric backing, a lot of which consisted of silk. Despite silks’ reputation these days of being associated with wealth, it was a common resource among the Mongols which served as a surprisingly strong material. It was said that Genghis Khan issued his soldiers silk vests as the rationale proved to be that were an arrow from an enemy to impact the flesh under the silk, the bolt in the silk did not break the material but was wrapped up within the silk, which in turn would permit the arrow to be gently removed when the silk was teased open. This proved very effective when it came to ensuring his soldiers did not suffer the trauma of typical arrow removal. There you go, kids; silk isn’t just great for looking sexy, it can stop you from dying horribly.
Through the historical lens, whilst archers wore light armor by preference, saber-wielders, spearmen and shield bearers tended to favor the wonders of lamellar armor.
Lamellar armor was largely preferred on account of being flexible and effective due to not being as heavy as mail or plate armor (also due to the fact both of these resources were scarce) as it consisted of small rectangular armor plates sewn together with hidden disks inserted into vulnerable locations such as under the arms and behind the knees to provide maximum movement and comfort in combat and during travel. Helmets were traditionally forged from iron with leather and fur to not only provide shielding from attacks but also warmth and comfort in extreme climes with leather flaps around the sides and the back to protect the ears and neck. Due to their extensive expertise on horseback, Mongols mainly wore shoes known as gutal which had toes that were up-turned and pointed in order to prevent riders from catching their feet in the stirrups and falling off their mounts. This feature also demonstrated the Mongol respect for the land, as the shape minimized the size of the wearer’s tracks.
Cool, sneaky and environmentally conscious. Very cool.
Although our proud airag-loving See You Next Tuesday is clad in the aforementioned gear for the most part, what differentiates him from his underlings is the fact his wear throughout the game is considerably ornamental in order to reflect his rank and the fact the man is a deadly peacock as much as he is a triumphant conqueror.
In collaboration with the intricate designs etched into his resplendent armor as well as other lavish accessories including a long, flowing cape, glittering jewels, baubles, furs, scabbards, straps, chains and an ostentatious crest on his war helm, he wears very prominent shades of orange, red and yellow as undergear. Upon closer inspection, one can see rich embroidered patterns consisting of dragons and demons (quite telling of his nature, non?), traditional Mongolian motifs, gilded accents and silver studs sewn into the material, all of which emphasize his enormous frame. Even his weaponry reflects this desire to be gawked at with his signature guandao which displayed an elegantly coiled dragon around the base of the blade with a long crimson tassel hanging from it’s gaping maw. An ensemble most befitting a Khan indeed.
As mentioned, Khan Khan is a dangerous peacock, all of these elements indicate the fact that the Khan wants to be seen. He wants his foes to take note of him during the chaos of combat and be gob-smacked by the sheer audacity of his outfit. Khan is very much a man who is about shock and awe when it comes to throwing down with enemies on the battlefield so it stands to reason that the bombast of his garb matches his prowess as a combatant. On the grounds of blood and fury, the Khan’s garb is as much a goad as it is a distraction and defense. Not only that, I must applaud the designers for going against the grain for not only cladding the villain in something other than the typical black, it’s also not often we see a burly male character who doesn’t fear to incorporate a substantive swathe of unapologetically garish colour and taken seriously by the universe he exists in AND the players.
(Note: As a former husky sort myself, I count this as net positive biomass representation.)
Final Verdict: 10/10, would conquer Tsushima and look like the baddest, brightest swaggering cock doing it.
The easiest and hardest part about writing about Bloodborne is while there are so many topics which are intimately familiar to me. The clear H.P. Lovecraft comparisons, strong ties to various works of horror to nihilistic psychology, it’s ridiculously difficult for me to articulate about just one element but something I noticed on the several occasions I have played the game is this; it is a deliberate deconstruction and annihilation of the concept of the human myth and it’s place in our culture. To be frank with you, I haven’t the foggiest where this drabble is going to go, and while I will try my darnedest not to go off on too many a tangent, keep in mind this is more a less a string of consciousness made digital word as opposed to anything remotely resembling academic thought.
Simply put, Bloodborne is a perverse inversion of our exclusively human beliefs and values, things which have been a part of our culture and our psychology since we learned the ability to think beyond what we could merely see. However, it does not do so by employing the strictly strange to show this, quite the contrary, Bloodborne remorselessly presents us all with a knowledge we all know, but performed in a sacrilegious context which lays bare just how fragile our sense of belonging and existence truly is. Although it is tempting to strictly adhere to comparing these notions from the relatively modern source of Lovecraft, let’s keep in mind the concept of existential crisis, both interior and exterior, have always been a part of the human condition before some stringy, socially awkward bigoted racist was a gleam in his progenitors’ eye.
Like it or not, we are a selfish species; most if not all of what we have done has been to preserve our livelihoods with all over concerns being secondary, even tertiary. We consume and reproduce in an endless cycle with little forethought for the consequences our collective and generational actions will have on our world, despite the fact the world and the universe it exists within is a greater entity than we will ever be. In the broad scheme of things, all of us, no matter how powerful or profitable we are, will mean less than nothing. When we die, the world and universe will continue, altered in the formers’ case to be sure, but save for those who love us, we are not mourned or given an immortal legacy.
We will never become deified by anyone beyond those who we share our lives with because we are only temporary beings. In the case of Bloodborne, the nebulous belief of immortal legacy and godhood is something humans were never meant for, and in the pursuit of changing such a dynamic for our betterment, instead, we end up denigrating further as opposed to flourishing. For the duration of the game, while playing as the Hunter, you make the gruesome discovery that the residents of Yharnam have collectively gone mad and have descended rapidly into becoming blood-thirsty beasts, where a transmorphic event has taken place in their bodies, minds and souls.
Quite simply, their forebears believed humanity could ascend to meet the Great Ones eye to eye. Scholars attempted to bridge the two races through research and experimentation, all achieving disastrous results, all of which being imperfect, horrendous and abhorrent hence the reason for the Hunter. The Hunter is the tool used to hunt down those who relinquished their humanity in favor of communing with the Great Ones, eliminating the primitive element, but as it becomes apparent, this cycle never ends. As long as humans have the aspiration and the entitlement to go beyond what they are worth, the hunt never ends. This desire in addition to the consumption of the Paleblood (which enables you to look past the veil at what truly lurks in the shadows of Yharnam) is what reverts humanity to it’s most base instincts, stripping away logic, morality and any mores of societal norms and always results in certain tragedy.
The Paleblood goes beyond exposing a persons’ Jungian Shadow, it transforms that person into the Jungian Shadow. In this sense, the story line pushes forward the truth that despite everything we see and read, despite everything we vow to never do, one way or another, the temptation to give in is greater than anything. This almost suicidal drive to become the animal is the religion of humanity, it’s where we came from, it’s where we could potentially go because it is all too easy for us to give in at the end. The Hunter, at least to me, represents the figurative Hero in Joseph Campbell’s seminal The Hero’s Journey, a distinctly humanistic trait which shows up constantly in stories because it appeals to our sense of self worth and hope. Below I’ve included the overview of this, however, one of the most recognisable examples of this can be seen in the story arc of Luke Skywalker in the original Star Wars trilogy or the myth of King Arthur which is the epitome of a classic quest of the hero in any story;
1. The Ordinary World: The hero, uneasy, uncomfortable or unaware, is introduced sympathetically so the audience can identify with the situation or dilemma. The hero is shown against a background of environment, heredity, and personal history. The hero-in-potential is shown to be torn in various directions due to circumstances, personal dilemmas and other outside forces beyond their control. 2. The Call To Adventure: Something disrupts the current status quo, either from external pressures or from something rising up from deep within the person’s existence, so the they must be introduced to the genesis of change. 3. Refusal of The Call: The hero feels the understandable human fear of the unknown and attempts to shirk the adventure, however briefly. Alternately, another character may express the uncertainty and treachery ahead. 4. Meeting The Mentor: The hero comes across a seasoned traveler of who gives him or her the primary training, equipment, and/or crucial advice that will help on the journey. In some cases, the hero will find that mentorship within themselves through realising their own true sense of resolve. 5. Crossing the Threshold: At the conclusion of the First Act the hero commits to leaving the Ordinary World and enters a new world, the Special World, filled with unknown challenges, labors and dangers. 6. Tests, Allies and Enemies: The hero’s innate strength and/or intelligence is tested and soughts out allegiances in the Special World. 7. Approach: The hero and new found allies formally prepare and forge a sense of unity for the major challenge in the Special World. 8. The Ordeal: Near the middle or the end of Act Two, the hero enters a central space in the Special World and confronts death or faces his or her greatest fear which they have long been running away from. Death, literal or figurative of either self or their traveling party occurs which fully pushes the hero to their absolute limits. 9. The Reward: The hero earns the treasure by facing death or something akin to it. There may be a temporary cause to celebrate, but there is also danger of losing the treasure again and the hero knows better not to rest upon their laurels. 10. The Road Back: About three-fourths of the way through Act Three, the hero is resolute to complete the adventure, leaving the Special World to be sure the treasure is brought back to their home. Often a chase scene signals the urgency and danger of the mission which can last the entire remainder of the story. 11. The Resurrection: At the climax, the hero is severely tested once more on the threshold of home. He or she is purified by a last monumental sacrifice, another moment of death and rebirth, but on a higher and intimately complete level. 12. The Return: The hero makes an assured return to home or continues the journey, bearing some element of the reward that has the power to transform the world as the hero has been transformed and has a greater awareness of who they are, what they can do, and a willingness to help future heroes, thus the cycle continues.
Bearing that in mind in addition what I mentioned earlier about the rift between humanity and the gods, I want you to think of the reverse when it comes to the Hunter’s journey in Bloodborne and you will find that Bloodborne is the direct antithesis to Campbell’s celebrated narrative theorem. Despite the fact the game is indeed an RPG while permits you to customize your character’s appearance, attitude, skills, clothes and weaponry, this initial feeling of empowerment is actually a cruel joke which gradually rubs itself in your face when you realise that most if not all of what you have done has been not for the benefit of humanity, but for the Great Ones. As the Hunter gathers further knowledge and insight about the curse of Yharnam, they start to see the Great Ones and realise every movement they have made has been dispassionately scrutinised. The Great Ones do not concern themselves with the affairs of humanity, instead they observe, watch us as we destroy themselves in the senseless, compulsive pursuit of something they will never have. Witnessing this reminds you as the player that no matter how well you have performed in-game, how many times you have needed to restart an area, regardless of your upgrades, pimped-out wardrobe and enhanced weaponry, is of absolutely no significance in the story, specifically the universe in which the Hunter exists.
Nothing, not a single deed of what you have done, not an iota of your suffering and self-determination matters.
Your Hero’s Journey proves fruitless and utterly inconsequential which in turn cements home the notion that anything human, anything of which has been our thought, our will and our creation, no matter how powerful we may see it as, has absolutely no place beyond our own ego because it is only human. ONLY human. This nonchalant act of perversion against our expectations is the brilliance in the narrative of Bloodborne; it is not interested in giving you yet another optimistic boost about yourself or the human race. It pummels your fragile ego and awareness into oblivion because that is, at least in this universe, where we are all bound and cursed to belong.
Although there is a mighty contingent of horror fans who look back fondly on Tobe Hoopers’ 1979 adaptation of Stephen Kings’ small town/big deal vampire tale, when one removes the rose-coloured glasses of nostalgia and/or childhood trauma previously held there by a levitating Ralphie Glick or the (in what is actually a great design) distempered bald rat appearance of Reggie Nalders’ Kurt Barlow, it’s not the strongest King-based film. As consolation however, one could hardly hold that sin against that particular film alone. It is a truth widely known that cinematic and television takes on the Kingdom suffer from the imbalanced combination of a promise of concept and ideas with execution limited by reality. It doesn’t happen all the time with some strong examples coming in the form of Geralds’ Game, The Shawshank Redemption, Doctor Sleep, IT (namely Chapter One although Chapter Two could not be blamed for being lazy) and the CBS series of The Stand actually IS quite solid, thankyouverymuch, but more often than not, it takes a certain touch to bring Kings’ particular prose to the screen in a cohesive and competent manner that not only pays respect (if not complete fidelity) to the authors’ work, but also maintains its’ own identity and gels with the audience.
Due to being a fan of Salem’s Lot as a novel and of quality vampire media in general, I found it prudent (and let’s face it, this is me indulging in my own opinions because this is my blog) to play the Game of Wishful Optimism and propose my own current dream casting of a speculative remake of the story, with the preamble of a great creative crew, an agreeable schedule and minor studio interference firmly in place… in other words, the entertainment version of Utopia.
Jovan Adepo as Ben Mears
Adepo is absolutely slaughtering the shop in the aforementioned The Stand as troubled and morally-grey musician turned doomsday survivor Larry Underwood in what has to be one of the strongest casting choices I have ever seen for such a complex character.
Although the character of Ben Mears can is easier to code as a Good Guy despite his outsider status in the town, Adepo is extremely good at portraying nuanced and troubled waters underneath a seemingly cool exterior. Given Ben is thrust into various dangerous situations, it would be understandable to see him struggle through them and have him emerge with scars which will likely stay in his mind long after the story concludes.
Jared Harris as Richard Throckett Straker
Harris is one of my favourite actors who has been working for a very, VERY long time. That being said he has but quite recently become a wide-spread household name due to his amazing work in HBOs’ Chernobyl and AMCs’ awesome The Terror (Season One) but to name merely two examples.
In saying that, I would would like to put forward that it was his earlier performance as the Napoleon of Crime himself Professor James Moriarty in Guy Ritchies’ Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows where he was so very erudite, so very sophisticated and so very dangerous that it made absolute sense to me that he could play Straker in a similar vein (hurrrrr) as James Mason in the original film, but still carve his own unique path into the role.
Plus, I feel he looks fabulously zaddy in a three piece suit, but that’s not the point.
Stellan Skarsgård as Kurt Barlow
I will in no way deny that this choice was not a package deal with the above casting because it totally was due to how beautifully both actors played off of each other in the previously listed Chernobyl, but by the same token, Skarsgård has a certain touch when he portrays villainy and the guy is physically imposing to boot with his hulking yet poised physique in addition to his raspy, bonesaw barritone.
Skarsgård appears to understand how to create true menace without resorting to bells and whistles, he can be clandestine and guarded in his approach, much like how Barlow is in the story. Barlow is not one to venture out in public on a whim and prefers to emerge with very few witnesses around due to having several centuries’ worth of survival instincts, hence why he has Straker to handle his affairs.
I also figure since his sons Bill and Alexander have been successful in venturing into Kings’ realms of horrors, why shouldn’t Papa Skarsgård follow as same?
Adam Driver as Matt Burke
Driver could play a household cleaning instrument and still be compelling, but when it comes to strong side roles in the form of the leads’ friend, it can by a tricky affair to pull off given how short-shifted such a character can be in a horror film.
In the case of Burke, he serves as social support for Ben and as exposition with regards to the sordid history of the town having lived there for basically his entire life and knows all of those who dwell in it all with an affable air of kindness about him. Driver has such an unconventional yet unmistakable charm that it would be easy to believe Adepos’ Ben could be fast friends with him in a matter of a few short days which in turn would make the dire events Burke finds himself in to follow all the more impactful.
Emma Stone as Susan Norton
Emma Stone never fails to bring a smile to my face whenever she appears, no matter how thankless her role could be. It is of no secret that what makes Stone so endearing is indeed the fact she is one of this generations’ most talented actresses due to her combination of beauty, sass, strength and sincerity. Susan Norton is not one of the most well-known of Kings’ female characters which I feel is criminal because Susan is quite astute, perceptive, keenly intelligent and more than admirably holds her own.
When the danger of Barlow and his vampire plague begins to take hold of her home, family and friends, without fail Susan wastes absolutely no time assisting in the effort to expel the evil and reclaim the town even though she knows to fail will literally cost her soul.
Patrick Gallagher as Father Frank Callahan
Gallagher has been working in the arena since I was a sprite and although until recently when I never knew his name, I always knew his face whenever he appeared in a film or a television series, regardless of the size of the role due to how much charisma the man exudes in addition to his inherent talent. Additionally, he has the honor of portraying one of the best videogame antagonists ever in the form of Khotun Khan in Ghost of Tsushima, but that is beside the point (seriously though, play that game, it and Khan are amaaaaaaziiiiiiinnnnnnnng).
Father Frank Callahan is a man filled with tremendous pain which he keeps hidden underneath a tough yet warm mask he shows to most residents of Salem’s Lot because at the core, the Father is suffering a severe crisis of faith even before Barlow infests the town. With all of these conflicting emotions bubbling to the surface as the town and it’s people begin to suffer, Callahan is thrusted into a dynamic and fascinating position which truly raises the stakes… oh man, I’m on a tear.
Before you ask, I didn’t mind the 2004 miniseries, have at if you wish, I said what I said, come at me, bro/sis.
Note: Goodness ME has it taken me forever to pick this series back up! I haven’t had much time to compose a full-fledged analysis for a while due to life being such as it is, but here is the next instalment of DDoD. Hope you enjoy. Also, I would take the opportunity to say this article comes with a trigger warning regarding content touching on sexual exploitation and violence toward young girls and the violation of human rights in general.If you are sensitive to such matters, it may be prudent not to read it, I will not blame you and know your opinion and boundaries are seen and valid. For those of you who roll their eyes at the term ‘trigger warning’, I pity you.
In times what is by now I would hope most apparent, the Silent Hill franchise is one of the most highly regarded survival horror franchises of all time. With the games’ focus on the phantasms of the human mind as the forefront tentpole of what makes the series the most unique, it’s practically a rite of passage for any gamer keen to get in on the survival horror genre. Whilst the watchword of Resident Evil is primarily bombastic, in the early years of Silent Hill, the approach was subtle. Although the saga has since become, shall we say, ECLECTIC in its approach (the later games were not… very… good), the first four games have substantive fondness in fans. Although Silent Hill 2 is rightly and widely recognised as the pinnacle of what the series was at the core with its incredibly bleak tone and confronting material, Silent Hill 3 is my personal favourite entry of the series and a lot of if has to do with our Damsel for today, Heather Mason aka Cheryl Mason, the daughter of the first games’ protagonist, Harry.
Prior to the events of the first game, an archaic cult in Silent Hill impregnated the psychic child Alessa Gillespie with the fetus of their creator God that it could be born and bring their horrific version ofutopia into fruition on Earth. During the ritual, Alessa sustained significant burns, a trauma so potent which caused her to split her soul in half – one remained within her charred, withered body, a warped consciousness, meanwhile the other half, her innocence, manifested as the infant Cheryl found on the side of the road by Harry Mason. Seven years later, Harry and Cheryl returned to Silent Hill on vacation, which resulted in the two souls reuniting and allowing for the birth of God to take place. Harry was able to stop the deity, but the ritual was too much for the now-whole Alessa. As she died, she was reincarnated as a baby saved by Harry during the ordeal who was named Heather.
After a personal tragedy resulting in Harry losing his wife, Harry raised little Heather all on his own, constantly on the move, which gave Heather very little opportunity to connect with others. By the time Silent Hill 3 occurs, Heather is seventeen years old and winds up once again within the cults’ devious sights.
The first thing that immediately struck me about her looks and her personality and how both of these things defy the expectations of female characters in other horror games. While a pretty girl, she also looks like somebody you could find anywhere be it at a supermarket to a fairground. With her imperfect complexion, asymmetrical features and body composition, Heather could be your friend or your sister, somebody you could realistically connect to in every day life. Because of Heathers’ regular appearance, there is a certain vulnerability to her that many other survival horror characters don’t have and that it what immediately draws you in, but naturally, that is what not what just keeps you invested in her tale.
When we first meet Heather cruising around at the local mall, she is portrayed as a seemingly normal and carefree girl who loves to shop and enjoy life. She has a considerable amount of rough edges and tends to be blunt with others though not out of cruelty but as a defense mechanism. One trait of Heathers’ is that she is moody and loses her temper quite easily at things that frustrate her, which, as we know are completely normal emotions for a teenager. At times, she comes off as a downright brat, but before one judges her too harshly, permit me to ask this; were you ever utterly selfless and completely responsible at that age? Being human means being conflicted, combative and contradictory, a maelstrom of nuance and complexity, all of which personal qualities Heather is not too perfect to have.
While longer a child yet not quite an adult yet either, Heather still displays aspects of childish conceit, naïveté and emotional vulnerabilty. During her nightmarish journey across dimensions, Heather experiences vicissitudes and is a scared, stressed, exhausted, and frightened teenager who, in addition to struggling with a complicated relationship with her father as an adolescent, must fight to survive the ordeal that is Silent Hill and those who live within it.
Going back to themes and logic in thegames, I feel the driving force of Heathers’ crucible is one which deals with identity and agency as a young girl in an old world that does not recognise either of these aspects. Due to her aforementioned mystical heritage involving her intimate connection to Alessa, her purpose and existence pursued by the cult of Silent Hill is archaic and insidious; she is to be the mother of God, or specifically, THEIR rendition of God, their construct of God.
If this notion sounds familiar to you, that’s because it is. As much as contemporary Western society has progressed in terms of broad social movements, technologies and other enhanced means of living, antiquated traditions, beliefs and values still linger, refusing to fade like stubborn spirits in a house.
From a very early age, girls are encouraged to value their physical appearance, to please, to speak when spoken to, being told to accept that when a boy mistreats them, it’s because the boy secretly likes them. In addition to this, life is quite difficult for a teenage girl because while they do tend to understand what is morally correct and what is not, they are still trying to figure out who and what they are and are naturally prone to make errors. As their minds and bodies develop, they experiment, push boundaries and because of this desire to express personal freedom, their tastes are condemned by society, their attitudes mocked and peers doubling down on maintaining a strict status quo which forces these girls to focus on families they may never have, children they may never want and relationships they may never desire all the while objectifying and disparaging their bodies to an intensely disturbing degree.
Do you remember that pederasty-fueled countdown the internet had in anticipation for when the Olsen Twins turned 18?
Have you seen how Billie Elishs’ body is shamed and deconstructed by men twice her age?
How about in other countries where young girls are being sold as brides with absolutely nobody batting an eyelid or dismissing it as something-something-their-culture-something-something-not-our-problem?
What of the sexual abuse committed by the rich and corrupt in our own so-called ‘civilised’ countries?
Why is this so?
Because they can. Because they know the most they would ever get would be a slap on the wrist. Because they possess a certain privilege and power which they can abuse with no consequence.
While the #MeToo movement presents it’s own problematic issues, as somebody who has thus far had the experience of life as a female, who was treated in a sexually dubious manner by various male figures, whether or not I knew it at the time, the core issue of the mistreatment and misappropriation of girls is an actuality which has long endured and is still practiced around the world. In the case of Heather Mason, it is this reality which has been amplified to a disturbing degree. She was born to breed, nothing more, and her pursuers will stop at nothing to ensure that her purpose, her ‘destiny’ is fulfilled with no further regard for her own autonomy. That right there? That is more frightening than any of the misshapen, psychologically penetrative monstrosities lurking about in the Silent Hill dimension combined.
Note: You may notice that the header image of Heather features her wearing her signature white ‘life jacket’ hoodie but with no sign of a top underneath despite the fact in-game Heather wears an orange short-sleeved turtleneck underneath the jacket which completely conceals her chest. I wonder if this artistic choice was deliberate on the part of the creator, to display Heather in a somewhat sexualised fashion that before you play the game, your mind can’t but indulge in what appears to be “Jailbait”-style fan service and then, when you realise the context and logic of the story and the character, it would have a completely different effect. If that was indeed the intention, bravo, Konami. That being said, there are some pretty scandalous and downright wrong art pieces of Heather in extremely sexually compromising positions and postures that make me feel extremely icky because I’m not sure that was the deliberate intent of the, ahem, ‘work’.
As Heather makes her way through the Silent Hill dimension, she comes into contact with various creatures, most of which appear to be very masculine in appearance which try any which way they can to grab at and maim her. As a matter of fact, several of the more grotesque monstrosities have names or appearances which can be associated with unwanted and negative attention in addition to rather overt physical appearances such as the Slurper, the Scraper and the Double Heads (rabid and ravenous canine monsters which can appear in packs in order to attack Heather in addition to that name which HAS to be a double entendre, hrrrrrrrmmmm!). Although many of the in-game foes are coded as male, perhaps the most devious, relentless and compelling antagonistic force Heather meets is Claudia Wolf; another woman. Wolf invigilates the harmful, restrictive status quo of the Silent Hill cult that wishes to bring Heather to heel, but her reason for doing so is greatly complicated. However, I will save *that* in-depth character analysis for another time.
Despite being pursued and manipulated by the world around her, Heathers’ emotional strength is not to be undermined. For all of her childish outbursts and snide comments toward mature authority figures, she is able to endure and survive this Hellish ordeal. While she is not completely triumphant by the end of the game, she has managed to reach deep down into an untapped reservior she thought she had only imagined in order to take on the cult. In what has to be one of the most satisfying and thematically *very* telling moments in the game, she literally boots God square between the legs.
While I am not certain of Konamis’ full intentions, I can’t help but read Heathers’ tale as one about the journey of a young girl who not only faces her past and achieves a state of maturity, but who rejects, battles and succeeds in defeating the patriarchy. Allow me to be clear because it’s not my intention to get into The Shit for this; I do not see or define the patriarchy as “MEN BAD!”. What the patriarchy is to me is an institution that is governed by a cowardly cross-section of the powerful %1 (mostly but perhaps not exclusively white males) who seek to enrich only themselves whilst weaving the illusion of benefice and promise of capital toward one demographic of the population (men), but in actuality having nothing but contempt for any and all identities that are not them. The incentives tend to shift with time and figureheads alternate, but the goal remains the same; domination and subjugation of everyone else through the abuse of power and control utilizing a rigid and toxic status quo. It’s cruel, it’s vindictive and it is a very real problem which exists right now, but in varied degrees. Some aspects of the patriarchy is clear and at times comically blunt, but others display a sense of shadowy cunning that is not always visible, hence the opinion held by some who say there is no such thing as the patriarchy; just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there and it doesn’t see you and has you within its’ suffocating grasp. Patriarchy is a corporation rather than one singular avatar and through the various monsters, story revelations and the setting, Silent Hill 3 presents another example as to why horror is a paragon of freely expressing all manner of concerns we possess, and in this case, it proves that it is entirely possible to defeat a fearsome, ingrained evil. The trick is that in order to do so, to truly bring the beast down, you require courage, resilience, humanity and your own forged sense of identity to truly make a difference rather than to submit to the darkness which threatens to encroach you, just like Heather.
*Note: What you are about to bravely endure is unapologetically stupid content that is purely speculate on a property which prides itself in abiding by the doctrine of It’s Not That Deep, Bro all in the name of grotesque, delicious merriment and nostalgic delights.
‘Cosmic Horror‘: “… the philosophical notion of existential nihilism and philosophical pessimism, as well as the desolate quality of the natural world, and cosmos in general.”.
In the realm of Mortal Kombat, the universal language which all of the characters understand is excessive violence, be it as a result of a misunderstanding, a petty dispute or on some occasions, legitimate grievances… which, okay, kinda isn’t too far removed from our own continuity once you mull that thought over for more than five seconds.
“I don’t know who you are!”
“You killed my clan!”
“WHY WON’T YOU TAKE THE TEDDY BEAR I MADE FOR YOU?!”
All good and wholesome fun which has earned its reputation of equal infamy and fondness across generations of gamers with an appreciation for ridiculous bloodlust.
That being said, I would like to take the opportunity to talk a little about one of my mains, Noob Saibot, aka the original Sub-Zero, Bi-Han. Saibot, despite his rather unfortunate name is a far scarier prospect than you think, and it’s not just his penchant for sadistic violence and is the only ninja who is actually DRESSED like a ninja.
Noob Saibot is a powerful revenant who was reborn after being murdered by Scorpion thanks to the forbidden meddlings of Quan Chi in the Netherrealm. What was once a book of blood and bone is now an abysmal grimoire of the darkest of magic and immortal spite. Having divorced himself from the Lin Kuei Clan absolutely, Noob has spent most of the later series looking to usurp his creator, Shang Tsung and others he deems as his enemies utilizing shadowy treachery and utter bloodshed with assistance from his dastardly Shadow Double. In the most recent entry of the series, Mortal Kombat 11, he has literally assumed the avatar of Death itself.. but oh, if only he were merely that. No, Noob isn’t just Death incarnate, he is something worse.
Like Shang Tsung, there is something a little more predatory and vindictive in how Noob fights and his claiming of victory over those he faces. A primary example is his pre-battle entrance in the aforementioned Mortal Kombat 11 which consists of him being birthed by a nebulous oubliette, prying a sickle out of his stomach without hesitation or flinch and dressed as what could only be described as the Grim Reaper itself with a barren, bonesaw rasp of a voice promising the demise of his opponent. It’s extremely badarse, extremely intimidating and extremely befitting the evolution of this powerful character.
All of Noobs’ Kombat powers are Netherrealm-borne with particular focus on teleportation, temporal manipulation and perception alteration but his most well-known attack is the use of portals that he can summon out of nowhere to ensnare his victims where they briefly disappear before being plonked back into the bout again.
Something I have always wondered about this attack is this; where does the opponent go? Time in the wider sense is an ambiguous thing to say the least; for a general example, what we may consider a year could either be a day or a millenium in alternate continuities. In a sense, Noobs’ portals are black holes. While science has worked on honing the most cohesive hypothesis about how a black hole behaves from the human point of view, there still remains a certain romance of these galactic oddities, a terrifying romance to be sure, but nevertheless a persistent and engaging one.
I don’t believe we will ever fully understand black holes due to the fact our brains simply aren’t equipped to be privy to all of their secrets and realities and we conjure these fancies as a means to make sense of them, the way our ancestors made sense of their world millions of years ago under the stars. Frankly, there are things out there which cannot be understood, at least by the likes of us as a species. Humans were not built to thrive in the void and oblivion above; explore, yes, but truly live? No. To live successfully is dependent on the capacity to comprehend ones’ surroundings in conjunction with ones’ sense of self and there is a seeming infinite of the unknowable up and out there that even the most sharpest and brilliant of minds cannot fathom.
And do you know what?
I feel this limitation is for the best.
The knowledge and the experience would be far too much for any of us to bear that we would be driven mad (-der). In other words, that existentially distressing phantasm of having no place in a world in which your being is completely inconsequential is one of the staple hallmarks of the concept of Cosmic Horror.
So, going back to Noobs’ portals. Yes, I typed those words with a snicker.
It makes you wonder if the unlucky Kombatant in those moments experiences something akin to ab absolute dissolution of the mind, glimpsing of an infinity where they do not belong or wish to belong. What would they see? How long would they see it for? How would their minds rationalise it? What is not to say that when they return back to the present their minds have been thoroughly destroyed and Noobs’ death blow would only be a formality? It would essentially result in what is known in psychology circles as emotional overload; a relentless barrage of trauma the mind is unable to successfully compartmentalize which results in emotional deterioration which can lead to mental and eventually physical death if left untreated. Pair that response to an unknowable stimulus and you have yourself a fate truly worse than death.
In short, I am of the opinion that Noob has already won the battle. He has already slain his opponent with a breed of trauma they could never have been prepared for and physically ripping them asunder in a graphic and brutal fashion is but a grotesque indulgence of his choosing.